Lo-fi rap embraces imperfection. Artists and producers utilize unmixed vocals, distorted drums, and tape hiss for their practical and aesthetic beauty. From RZA and Dilla to Earl Sweatshirt and Roc Marciano, the lo-fi scene is as rewarding and overwhelming a subgenre as any currently existing in rap. Welcome to the Lo-Fi Snack Pack, a weekly column where we highlight four songs across the lo-fi spectrum.
“Jimi” — The Lasso x PSYPIRITUAL
Detroit producer The Lasso is a one-man orchestra. He crafts many of his beats in solo jam sessions before bending and distorting them into lush walls of sound. The Lasso thrives when paired with an equally adventurous rapper, as on his latest collaboration KIRLIAN, with the Arizona MC PSYPIRITUAL. The duo’s chemistry shines brightest on standout track “Jimi,” where Lasso’s gloomy guitars and kick drum provide the base for Psy’s stream-of-consciousness: “A mystery in the making / Goodfella, Joe Pesci in the basement.” The song sounds like it was recorded on Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas’ neverending desert highway at dusk just before the ayahuasca hit.
“Love Is…” — Navy Blue
For Navy Blue, counting blessings is like breathing air. The former skateboarder turned rapper/producer, born Sage Elsesser, has much to be thankful for. He spends the length of his debut album, Ada Irin, paying this thanks forward. The vibes are most potent on the self-produced penultimate track “Love Is….” Navy notes lessons learned from his late father (“I realize his spirit embedded sacred headdresses”) and bonds deeper than blood (“Peace to Nak, that’s my big brother /Syd’s brother too, Thebe kin to us”). Over a shimmering beat that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Charlie Brown special, we’re granted a peek at all Navy holds dear.
“Panther Lily” — AKAI SOLO
AKAI SOLO has been called an impressionistic rapper by many since first gaining our attention in 2019. The title isn’t far off. His rhymes are dense and knotty mixes of pro-Black aphorisms and anime references rendered with watercolor vocals. His latest project, RAFT, paints in more experimental strokes, especially on standout track “Panther Lily.” It’s a pleasure to hear AKAI bob and weave through RBCHMBRS’ skittering beat, dotting the canvas with blots of color: “Spliffs with the ashes attached / Still getting passed like laughs.” Even when AKAI’s rhyme schemes kick into fourth gear, he remains fluid and relatable.
“Unreleased” — Pink Siifu x YUNGMORPHEUS
Pink Siifu and YUNGMORPHEUS are kindred spirits in rap and life. Both are prolific rapper-producers whose nomadic lifestyles inform their eclectic tastes. Bag Talk, their 2019 collaborative project, is a 35-minute bar fest shrouded in weed and incense smoke. Of course, there were a few leftovers. Enter: “Unreleased,” a track premiered via OkayPlayer. On it, Siifu and MORPH kick back and talk shit over swelling strings and a fading vocal sample. MORPH’s deep rasp and Siifu’s mid-register bring heft and meaning to the song. With “Unreleased,” Pink Siifu and YUNGMORPHEUS continue to create for the pro-Black and the pro-blunted masses.