If you compare your debut record to the works of Kate Bush, SOPHIE and Gucci Mane, you’d better have the creative chops to back it up. Fortunately, Cincy-based rapper/producer Chloe Hotline isn’t merely flexing her eclectic tastes on her Spotify profile’s “CYNTHIA Vibes” playlist, which features all of the above — plus Britney Spears. She instead synthesizes the grandiose visions of these Pop stars into CYNTHIA: a mixtape that’s ominous, experimental and undeniably her own.
Released in March, the record was tailor-made for a time of retreat. As the reality of a global pandemic began to set in across the country, Chloe Hotline’s music carved out an intimate and introspective niche in the local Hip Hop scene.
“(I went for) a dull, cold cinematic theme with its bright spots,” she says over text messages. “When I started the project about a year ago, it was way happier and more poppy, but all of that got darkened when the winter months hit.”
A pair of headless mannequins on the cover art, gifted by Chloe’s sister, complete the atmosphere of isolation. Like Kanye West, whom she cites as a longtime influence on her production, she recontextualizes club-ready genres like Chicago Footwork and ’80s Electro, exploring themes of heartbreak, childhood and gender identity.
Don’t let CYNTHIA’s cohesive sound shape your expectations for her other work, though. Chloe plans to release an “orchestral” album inspired by movies like Jaws and Great Expectations in the near future, and the handful of singles she’s released on Spotify since May seem to favor a brighter sonic palette.
“My approach is always melody first,” she says. “I tend to look for more cute, cloudy sounds just naturally. It’s literally the opposite of how everyone tells you. Drums first is always the standard but I disregard that completely.”
Chloe self-produces the majority of her instrumentals, but she’s been rapping for even longer. She cut her first song in 2009, at a studio at her cousins’ house in Detroit. Since then, she’s made music under nearly 20 aliases, initially emulating artists like Big Sean, Kanye West and Tyler, the Creator.
The influence of the latter two is still seen in her recent output — especially on songs like “Talvia,” a bleak slice of breakup R&B, and diss track “No Stray Bullets,” which pairs conversational flows with hazy Soul samples.
Lately, though, she’s been listening to Alternative Pop from the turn of the millennium — namely Esthero and Roisin Murphy.
“Locally, I really like what’s going on,” she adds. “LAMB$ is a pioneer in the city, and he’s still going strong. And Suicide Rascal is someone who I’ve been inspired by recently, just seeing him work and grow.”
Learn more and listen to Chloe Hotline at chloehotline.bandcamp.com.