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.
“Tainted” — AKAI SOLO (@shinlonered)
Brooklyn rapper AKAI SOLO sees toxins everywhere. On his latest single, “Tainted,” he surveys his infected surroundings and finds ugly truths. Old friends have fallen out of the picture, and people “toast each other on the slave ship” and head to our collective doom. Things might seem bleak, but AKAI continues to keep his head up: “All I do is carve hope out my melancholy.” Producer $hayButtah’s beat shines with the pastel luster of a pink sunset, the perfect backdrop for AKAI to mull over life’s great puzzles to his heart’s content.
“F An Intro” — Barney Artist (@barneyartist, @kostralone)
Quarantine has kick-started the creative drives of many artists around the world. Take London rapper/producer Barney Artist, who, over the course of a week, wrote, recorded, and mixed the entirety of his latest project, LOFI LOCKDOWN, in his bedroom. Nine songs, six producers, no bullshit. On standout selection “F An Intro,” Barney kicks in the door before you can catch your breath. “Bristle like a Brillo pad / Simple math add to equations minus what you subtract; you rappers wack.” Over Kostral One’s wavy vocal chop, Barney’s words are more than just a statement of purpose. They’re a lyrical time bomb.
“St. Even” — Sir E.U (@SIREUTHEGR8)
Within seconds of playing Washington, D.C. rapper Sir E.U’s single “St. Even,” I thought my computer speakers were busted. Producer Jau Ocean’s beat sounds like a sun-damaged drum and bass cassette being force-fed into a thresher. This song assaults the senses in the best possible way as E.U’s voice cuts through the buzz to grip you with his stream-of-consciousness. He’s got enough finger jewelry to make Lord of The Rings villain Sauron jealous and inflates the syllable count on the word “delivert” to hilarious lengths. Through it all, E.U leaves space for simple profundity: “I often feel weak like the me I see in you.” Across “St. Even,” Sir E.U and Jau Ocean are yin and yang, embracing the jumpy and chaotic.
“old times” — Loui (@Luis_6_David)
Walks have become a part of my daily routine. Listening to a song like Loui’s “old times,” a standout from his latest EP, Springtime Vibes, I can feel both the fresh wind through my hair and the distance every person is now required to keep. The drums slap with an earthy tone as the piano keys and cooing vocal sample dance on the air, just out of reach. It calls to mind looking at a neighbor’s flowerbed with one foot around the corner in case they come out with the garbage. “old times” is an apt title. The song feels both immediate and distant in an era where leaving the house is suddenly a thing of the past.