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 Rap Snack Pack, a weekly column where we highlight four songs across the lo-fi spectrum.
“Itkanbe[sonice]” — Knxwledge & NxWorries (@Knxwledge, @AndersonPaak)
Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak were destined to work together. As the duo NxWorries, their music exists in a hyperbolic time chamber of hip-hop and soul. Their first new song in four years, “Itkanbe[sonice],” which appears near the end of Knxwledge’s sophomore effort 1988, features deep-fried guitars, drums, and vocal samples set to lift .Paak’s sandpaper crooning to new heights: “Don’t know what you want but I love your dedication,” he wails to a potential lover, presumably while sporting the sharpest Kangol you ever saw. On an album dominated by instrumental tracks and more R&B experiments than usual (“minding_my business”), “itkanbe[sonice]” reasserts NxWorries as old souls grooving their way through the modern age.
“Getsuga” — Echo & ovrkast. (@Trib3cho, @Ovrkast)
Wisconsin rapper Echo only wants two things: “My bills paid / and to tell you that I’m still sane.” To Echo, rap is both financial and spiritual salvation. On “Getsuga,” a standout track from his latest album, Here I Am, Echo lays his passions bare over a sloping knock from producer ovrkast. Self-affirming gems tumble out of the couplets he creates across the song: “Conversations with the blade keep me entertained / You never made it past a name, we ain’t built the same / They always told me be the change that you wanna see / But I don’t wanna change; I just wanna leave.” Wherever he ends up, Echo’s raw and thoughtful writing will take him far.
“98S WIT THE ALLIGATOR SKIN” — YUNGMORPHEUS & THERAVADA (@yungmorpheus44, @THRVD)
It’s a joy to hear a rapper and a producer operating on the same wavelength of slickness. On “98S WITH THE ALLIGATOR SKIN,” YUNGMORPHEUS, a rapper from Florida, and THERAVADA, a producer from New York, talk shit and slap beats in grand fashion. On the standout selection from MORPH’s latest album, BLACK SCHEMATA, released last Thursday, paper is schemed on, trees are rolled, and MORPH is “at the precinct with a musket,” just in case you were wondering what type of time he’s on. THERAVADA’s beat matches the noirish atmosphere, culling woodwinds and moody pianos to paint a picture of the surreal and tactile streets they run through.
“Summer’z Over” — Joe Spaino (@JoeSpaino)
Summer doesn’t start for another three months, and it already feels like it’s a dub. For Detroit rapper Joe Spaino, this feeling is business as usual. “Summer’z Over,” the opening song on his latest project, Episodes of a JungleSurvivor, takes listeners on a ride through a city where bodies are laid out on the same block where people were “blowin’ on cookie and guzzlin’ yac.” “It’s still hot outside, and the summer’s over,” Spaino sighs on the song’s hook, street tar dripping from his words. “Summer’z Over” is a sobering look at the realities of sweltering months for millions over downbeat jazzy production from Dee Lockett.