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.
“Per la Luna” — Bad Snacks (@lilbadsnacks)
Bad Snacks likes to keep listeners on their toes. The California beatmaker’s music settles in the grooves between hip-hop, techno, and merengue reminiscent of KAYTRANADA’s eclectic shuffle. Listening to “Per la Luna,” the third track from her latest project, Neat Tape 2, is like scrolling through a photo album of the wildest and sweatiest dance party of your entire life. A casual stroll with piano keys melts into a strobing four-on-the-floor rhythm interpolated with string samples and organs creating the atmosphere of a club with three different themed rooms and one central bar. The song’s four separate beat switches are sure to turn whatever surface you’re standing on into a dance floor.
“Sailbloccs” — wordsmith.wav, Beau Ye Roc (@wheards_)
“Sailbloccs,” a standout selection from ProJectSun’s CHANNELS, his project with the Texas-based rapper wordsmith.wav, rides. The beat sounds how riding in a top-down convertible feels. wordsmith’s verse disarms listeners by finding the silver lining in a life filled with bodybags scuffing the streets and dodging trigger-happy cops. “I’ll just peep significance by looking at shoes,” he raps. For wordsmith and Sun, the simple things in life—like a smooth ride—are the finest of them all.
“uh huh (lo-fi remix)” — ilham (@xoxoIlham)
On this “lo-fi / vaporware remix” of New York rapper ilham’s propulsive single “uh huh” the warbly edges of the song’s original beat are sanded off, and the BPM is slowed to a crawl. The record is both toned down and fuzzed-out. On a less ravenous beat, ilham’s lyrics—a kiss-off to a lover she’s eyeing and his partner that ends with an homage to 50 Cent’s “Just a Lil’ Bit”—pop differently, with raging whispers no longer fighting for space to be heard. “I’ma play it cool cause I’m over it,” she says, only half-convinced. The remix sounds more like an internal monologue than outward boast, a soothing flip of a universal frustration.
“Star Struck” — Masethemessiah (@Masethemessiah)
For California rapper/producer Masethemessiah, progress comes one month at a time. Since the beginning of 2020, Mase has released one short project every month, the latest of which, March Pack, is brimming with plainspoken charm. On intro “Star Struck,” Mase parses out his thoughts and dreams over synths and hi-hats. He wants to open his own business; his grandmother worries about him as much as he worries about his younger cousin trapping to make ends meet. The textures are detailed enough to imprint on the brain but open enough to give any listener who might need it the push to get one foot out of bed.