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.
“gethechange.” — Knxwledge
If you look up the word “prolific” in the dictionary, chances are you’ll see Knxwledge’s grizzled face. The Los Angeles producer churns out his brand of hazy atmospheric loops at an alarming rate on Bandcamp. His tape series dedicated to Meek Mill—which just logged its fifth entry, MEEK.VOL5_, this past January—might seem odd if you judge books by their covers, but the Philadelphia rapper’s scrappy voice is a natural fit over Knx’s grainy sound beds. Take opening track “gethechange.” Knx places faded piano keys and crashing drums under a pre-fame Meek’s hungry chest-thumping. It’s quiet enough to fit Knx’s oeuvre yet triumphant enough to soundtrack a Deontay Wilder fight.
“Amps Bleed” — Mello Marc feat. DØØf
New Jersey-based producer Mello Marc’s latest project, Untitled., was made for walks down rain-drenched streets leading nowhere in particular. The album cover—a picture of Brother Rabbit from Ralph Bakshi’s controversial 1975 satire Coonskin superimposed in front of a corner store at dusk—is the perfect prelude to “Amps Bleed,” a standout from the album. Wind chimes and nature sounds clash with fluttering keys as New York rapper DØØf spits about drifting through “the p’s” in “creased Wallabee’s.” Marc has a flair for capturing the hustle and bustle of nighttime with his beats.
“4EVAFADED” — Medhane
“Why relish the hurt?” Medhane asks at the beginning of “4EVAFADED,” the closing track on his latest project, FULL CIRCLE. The Brooklyn rapper’s blunt lyrical style is his calling card, and, under his producer alias AFB, he matches the deceptive complexity of his words. A melancholy vocal sample and fuzzy drums complement his strong voice, which cuts through the static by embracing his future. “Shit I wrote came alive / Ain’t shit on the paper dry,” he says, warmly. “4EVAFADED” heralds the coming of the sun for an artist ready to take his next steps.
“Alpha & Omega” — Sample
Sampling is inherently playful. The act of smashing sounds together to create a collage is the foundation of rap. Los Angeles-based producer Sample channels this giddy energy on his latest project, The Lion Shepherd—particularly on the standout song “Alpha & Omega.” Two lifting vocal samples float over a crispy drum break for the first half of the song’s runtime before an abrupt beat switch. All of a sudden, we hear the unmistakable voice of Stephen A. Smith shouting about basketball replays while a different choir swells behind him. It’s a disarmingly funny moment on an otherwise relaxing song. Through his sense of humor, Sample asserts himself as an act to watch.