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Music can resemble a painting. Vibrant sounds color songs, and a full picture comes into focus across the landscape of an album.

iLoveMakonnen treats music as his canvas. Emerging from Atlanta’s fertile creative grounds, he draws from a surprisingly diverse and dreamy palette that boldly stands at the intersection of hip-hop, R&B, alternative, and psychedelica. In 2014, his debut smash “Tuesday” [feat. Drake] would eventually go RIAA Platinum, land on “Best Song” year-end lists by Spin and The Fader, see him perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and earn a GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.” In addition to the ubiquitous “Tuesday,” the iLoveMakonnen EP yielded fan favorites such as “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” and “Swerve,” while 2015’s iLoveMakonnen 2 EP gave us “Forever” [feat. Santigold & 1st] and “Trust Me Danny.” Rising to cultural prominence in fashion as well, Alexander Wang recently invited him to be part of his Spring campaign "WANGSQUAD" alongside the likes of Travi$ Scott, Vic Mensa, and Baauer.

However, his 2016 project, Drink More Water 6 [Warner Bros. Records], continues a long tradition for the artist born Makonnen Sheran. It’s the sixth installment of a celebrated underground series that began in 2012, and it’s more than just sonically hydrating…

“While I have listeners’ attention, I’m trying to say something good,” he declares. “People aren’t really taking care of their health. Nobody’s getting enough water. I want to bring a healthy message. If you’re going to change the world, you need to change what you’re preaching. A lot of times, we get preached down the wrong fucking alley. Let’s go from the trap house to the art house. I want people to fuck with that.”

They’ll fuck with it because Drink More Water 6 exponentially expands Makonnen’s vision with some of his catchiest and most colorful anthems yet. Following his first trip to Australia for a performance at Listen Out Festival, he spent some time exploring the country and experiencing the culture. Those moments left an indelible mark on him, influencing the direction of his latest body of work.

“It opened things up,” he explains. “I love traveling, exploring, gathering, and taking something from each place to be more creative with my art. This way, my music can speak to more than just one group of people. It was eye-opening because Australians are really in touch with themselves and their feelings. They’re not all caught up in social media like we are over here. Friendships are really valued more than riches and shit. They’re more in touch with each other than they are with the internet.”

Inspired by the journey down under, he returned to Atlanta in October 2015 and wrote and recorded the bulk of Drink More Water 6 in just three days. He teamed up with producers such as Sonny Digital, Danny Wolf, Richie Souf, and Jae Mrly.

Now, these eleven tracks show every face of Makonnen from the booming and bouncy chant of “Big Gucci” to the blissfully stoned introspection of “I Only Trip With You.” Then, there’s “Sellin.” Flaunting one of his biggest hooks yet—“I’m sellin dope, I’m sellin dope”—and a cinematic shuffle, Makonnen slings something else to intoxicate listeners.

“Everybody refers to music, movies, or art as ‘Dope,’” he says. “I’m selling that. I refer to ‘Dope’ as dreams other people envy. I’m not out on the block. It’s a hustling song to get people up to start doing something. The club already went up on a Tuesday. You’ve got to get back out here and figuratively push what you got to push to be successful.”

At the same time, he also reflects on the past two years over an airy soundscape on the pensive, potent, and poetic “Back Again.”

“It could be about a relationship or a friendship,” he admits. “People leave when you’re not rich and famous, but I’m like, ‘I never fronted on you. I’m working on music. This is what I’m doing.’ Now, that things are going good, they start coming back again. It’s not right.”

Drink More Water 6 actually becomes a journey in and of itself for him. “I like to call it ‘Traveling Music,’” Makonnen smiles. “You can put on this series of music, and it’ll take you from the train to the plane to the car.”

If music were Alice in Wonderland, Makonnen would be The Mad Hatter, because he rules this wild, wonderful, and water­-y realm with a wide-eyed grin.

“When you hear Drink More Water 6, hopefully you want to go out and enjoy life,” he concludes. “I try to make a soundtrack for people living life. There’s at least one song for every moment of the day or night. That’s the world I hope they can live in.”

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