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.
“Illkallubak” — Knxwledge (@Knxwledge)
It’s impossible to overstate Knxwledge’s incredible ear for loops. The California producer is sitting on hundreds of them, ready to open the valve with new music at a moment’s notice. “Illkallubak,” a standout from Knx’s latest tape, HX.PRT14.8, sets a high-pitched sample of Erykah Badu’s “I’ll Call U Back” from her 2015 But You Caint Use My Phone mixtape, to a groove fit for a balcony covered in satin sheets. At this point, I don’t need to tell you that Knxwledge beats ride. Sun-baked hip-hop at its finest every single time.
“Allegedly” — Medhane (@Mehdonny, @Chuck_Strangers)
On his latest single, “Allegedly,” Brooklyn rapper Medhane falls in sync with a new sparring partner. The drums on producer Chuck Strangers’ beat are fuzzy, yet they bludgeon with the force of a freight train; they’re perfect for the brand of New York boom-bap the duo loves. Med’s bars work overtime to clear the grey skies he’s been fighting on wax for the past six months: “Seen niggas lose they mind tryna maintain / But if it was you and I, wouldn’t change place,” he says with his chest out.
“Lessons From My Mistakes...but I Lost Your Number” — Liv.e (@Oliveosun)
The Dallas-born singer Liv.e begins “Lessons From My Mistakes...but I Lost Your Number,” one of two new singles released last week, in a mental swirl. Her coos of “I be learnin’ from my mistakes” over the hazy skip of a jazz lounge instrumental keeps the song on a slant. Will learning from her mistakes be enough? A beat switch offers Liv.e a chance to finally open her heart and give this intoxicating song the coda it deserves. Liv.e makes mistakes sound so beautiful.
“Hawthorne” — Sarah, the Illstrumentalist (@Sarah2ill)
Stumbling across an artist like Sarah, the Illstrumentalist was a treat. Her music sounds like an unconscious pleasure meant to fade away. On “Hawthorne,” a standout song from her latest project FLOWERS, she warps a distorted string melody around twinkling keys and vinyl crackle. It sounds like waking up in a sauna with flowers growing through cracks in the tile. I haven’t been so happy to get lost in a while. You’ve earned a new fan, Sarah.