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.
“REGRETS” — MIKE (@t6mikee) & Jadasea (@jadasea1)
MIKE’s music is insular by design. The New York rapper/producer’s work usually sounds like private thoughts being smoothed just out of earshot. His latest single, “REGRETS,” featuring Britsh rapper Jadasea, flips this convention on its head. Even with the vocal distortion, MIKE sounds confident, almost triumphant. “How could it hurt me again?” he asks as rbchmbrs’ skittish beat pulses in the background. The lyrical trappings of any particular MIKE song are there: finding strength in friends, facing bad thoughts head-on, smoking copious amounts of weed. But MIKE’s vocals—and the song’s accompanying video—paint a different picture: Having regrets doesn’t mean you have to let them drag you down.
“Abeja” — Mndsgn (@mndsgn) & Sofie
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Songs like Mndsgn’s “Abeja” make me wish it was summertime. The California producer/instrumentalist’s music has always bubbled with warmth, but “Abeja” is transportive. I see sunlit afternoon sidewalks and ice cream cones beginning to melt. The kick drum is the slight yet reliable breeze pushing the swelling strings to floral heights. There aren’t enough words to describe just how soothing and warm this beat feels to me. Originally released on the 2016 compilation Sophie’s SOS Tape, the song’s video, released on March 9, caught my ear and kept me floating. I’m playing this song as soon as I step outside again for the first time.
“Moon Ring” — Kerlo (@itsjustkerlo)
There’s value in finding the time to allow your brain to float off into space. Every brain on the planet needs a moment just to tune out. Kerlo’s music is the perfect vessel to fly into the happiest spots of your mind. Her latest song, “Moon Ring,” evokes the purples and pinks of a prospective Sailor Scout within the weightlessness of a sensory deprivation tank. Many producers wish to let their music speak for themselves, but few have the gumption of Kerlo’s artist bio on Audiomack: “NOTHING TO TELL YOU JUST LISTEN.”
“Dreadlocks” — Wakai (@wakai007)
I appreciate artists who can make the most out of the least materials. New Orleans rapper Wakai’s latest single, “Dreadlocks,” takes a bassline, an 808, and lush synth keys and creates a piece of bittersweet magic. The song is a eulogy for friends lost and a reminder to keep moving forward in the face of hardship: “I rap so well for friends who lay / As in dead, meaning I can’t see ‘em no more / But in my head we gon’ smoke a blunt.” The beat’s minimalism draws attention to Wakai’s blunted words in ways a bigger production might drown out. The vibe of “Dreadlocks” sits with you long after the song’s over, a budding voice searching for feeling through music.