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.
“Fur Coat” — Jay Worthy (feat. Shlohmo)
The best beats can take you on a journey. Take California producer Shlomo’s work on “Fur Coat,” a standout from his collaborative project with California rapper Jay Worthy, Till The Morning. The song starts with an ominous loop Shlohmo might as well have pulled from The Twilight Zone, an orchestral mash of keys and strings with no drums. As Worthy hits the gas on his verse, spare 808s and hi-hats sneak their way into the mix and dot his words about wholesale minks and soul food. The flourishes of “Fur Coat” make it sound vintage and modern all at once.
“Carole Baskin” — Animoss (feat. Monday Night & Fly Anakin)
Animoss makes beats you can see. The California producer has a cinematic ear, conjuring scenes out of loops for names like KA, Roc Marciano, and Chuck Strangers. His latest single “Carole Baskin”—named for the infamous animal sanctuary owner popularized by the Netflix documentary, Tiger King—unfurls a scene draped in the twilight. Guest rappers Monday Night and Fly Anakin bob and weave through the corridors Animoss conjures, fitting naturally within the beat’s bed of strings. There are no explicit references to Baskin’s catchphrases or alleged crimes, and there doesn’t need to be. Animoss, Monday Night, and Fly Anakin made a movie for us to hear.
“Days Like This” — Jonathan Cloud (feat. Blu)
Jonathan Cloud wants to remind us where he came from. The Boston rapper/producer says as much at the start of his latest single, “Days Like This.” “I remember when nobody played my shit,” he spits with bravado. The self-produced beat is triumphant and personal, like a great memory replaying over and over in your head. A guest verse from California spitter Blu puts things further into perspective, moving from using EBT cards to cashing checks and redistributing the wealth. Jonathan Cloud and Blu’s best days are still ahead of them.
“Faded II” — Baby Cate
Baby Cate is no stranger to feeling isolated. On her latest single, “Faded II,” the Boston singer/producer has had enough of the false starts on companionship. Lines like “What have you done for me? I can’t tell / Have you even tried to reach my fuckin’ cell?” hit with pangs of longing and defiance. Cate’s production is lighter than air and floats around her melodies like the spirits of the past friendships she sings about. Loneliness is a tough journey to bear, but Baby Cate is ready to reach the other side.
The Lo-Fi Rap Snack Pack is 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.