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.
“Fictional” — Drakeo The Ruler & JoogSZN
California rapper Drakeo The Ruler has been fighting for his life, wasting away in a cell awaiting trial for the crime of rapping about his violent surroundings. On “Fictional,” the closing track on his latest project, Thank You For Using GTL—recorded entirely from prison using the titular inmate calling service—Drakeo drives the piss out of his captors: “It might sound real, but it’s fictional / I love that my imagination gets to you.” You can hear Drakeo’s smile through the crunchy phone static as he surfs producer JoogSZN’s wavy production. Thank You For Using GTL is a minor miracle of engineering and craftsmanship from all involved, but its greatest trick is giving its incarcerated protagonist space to taunt his oppressors.
“Problematic” — Iron Wigs feat. CRIMEAPPLE
Iron Wigs—the newly formed supergroup composed of Chicago rappers Vic Spencer and Verbal Kent and British rapper/producer SONNYJIM—is all about brutal bars and beautiful beats. Their first single, “Problematic,” features each spitter flowing beautifully into the next over an expertly placed soul loop. Instead of writing around Vic, Kent, Sonny, and guest CRIMEAPPLE’s bars, I’m going to let them speak for themselves:
“Gettin money racist, counting a bunch of dead Caucasians.” –CRIMEAPPLE
“How about a back massage with the bat in the garage?” –Verbal Kent
“On the baseball field, they call me homie / This shit out the park; I spark a log the size of pepperoni” –Vic Spencer
“Mandem tryna flex like Funkmaster.” –SONNYJIM
“2Door” — DrewsThatDude
Bumping music in your car is a hip-hop tradition unlike any other. Enter: New York producer DrewsThatDude’s “2Door,” the perfect remedy for needy car speakers across the country. Its drums, guitar strums, and nocturnal synths dance around each other effortlessly, remaking the night sky in their image. “2Door” sounds as relaxing as pulling into that parking spot and eating your fresh drive-thru order, a midnight snack for the ears.
“Ghostin” — NIGEL
On “Ghostin’,” a standout selection from his latest project, Ready For Rain, Connecticut rapper NIGEL details how a potential spark became a missed connection. “I love the way you push my buttons,” he says, just a touch lovelorn. Producer Saiko offers a bed of harps and fuzzy synths for NIGEL to wax poetic about the process from connection to hook-up to ghosting. A line like “It’s not what you were sayin’ when you fucked me” is both cathartic and honest, an effort by NIGEL to make captivating rap music out of bad romance. Yes, being ghosted hurts.
The Lo-Fi Rap Snack Pack is also available in playlist form on Audiomack, Apple Music, and Spotify. Please consider donating to these various racial justice organizations or The Okra Project, an organization dedicated to helping feed Black trans youth.