Senseless still making heads and tails of life

Andy Downing
Senseless, left, and producer Christian Melink

On “The Journey,” which falls near the tail end of new albumFranklin Park, Jacob Engle, aka rapper Senseless, pulls back, taking a big picture view of his time on the planet before going on to ponder his future movements “into the infinite.” 

His language is simple but impactful, and his delivery unrushed, almost leisurely, which is a marked departure from the wordier approach he adopted on early records, where he said he often felt an internal pressure to pack more of everything into each song.

“Especially when I was younger, I would go to do a record and I would have this expectation out of myself where I had to be really extra on my shit,” Engle said. “There are so many parts to [my first album] where I’m trying too hard and it was just so evident. … With this record, I just allowed myself to breathe more and not worry about anything. I was just making songs, which is such a privilege. … It felt like nothing outside of [the studio] existed.”

The songs still reflect current times, of course, whether purposely (the soulful “Sorry You Couldn’t Make It” makes oblique reference to social distancing) or by happenstance (“Cancel the Cops,” which was written and recorded long before this current period of civil unrest). And throughout, Engle centers his raps on his experiences with life’s “ups, downs and mediums,” as he explained it, offering up an unvarnished portrait of the rapper as a young man. 

Rather than being intentional in his process, however, Engle adopted a more hands-off approach, letting songs arrive as the universe intended. The rapper attributed this shift in mindset to a combination of age, a comfort level with producer, roommate and longtime friend Christian Melink, and a February move into a Franklin Park home that served as a creative nest as COVID-19 shut down activities across the city.

“Working with Christian, there’s a comfort level, for sure. We have 1,000 inside jokes, and we can build each other up or burst each other’s bubbles, which are important things to be able to do in a friendship,” Engle said. “And I’m 25 now. I’m not an old man, but there are ways I’m a little older and wiser.”

One of the wiser aspects of Engle’s personality remains his general aversion to social media, which is something to which we could all aspire.

“I’m not much for being a social warrior and making a post,” he said. Rather, he’ll take the energy he absorbs, stew in it, and then sit down with a pen, letting his thoughts take shape on the page. “I think more clearly in 16-bar verses, and I can portray the emotions inside me in a much clearer way [in song]. … Writing, for me, is looking at the things people look at on a normal day-to-day basis. And then I can go in and put my twist on it.”