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.
“wegetit_” — Knxwledge
If you’re a faithful reader of the Snack Pack (thank you), you already know my feelings about Knxwledge’s loops. They bend time and please the ears in ways all hip-hop of its kind should aspire to. On his latest project, VGM’s._PT.2, the California producer heads in a slightly different direction, blending his interest in beatmaking with his interest in video games. The flutes of opening track “wegetit_” sway with the grace of something you’d hear in a Legend of Zelda game while the programmed drums thump and stomp with the force of Ganon. I have no idea what game Knx sampled to create this song, but I was entranced for the whole of its one-minute-and-fifty-four-second run.
“B.B. Butcher” — Boldy James & Sterling Toles
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Detroit rapper Boldy James is finally enjoying the fruits of his decade-long labors in 2020. His showy breakout release is The Price of Tea In China—his excellent collaborative album with California producer Alchemist—but Manger on McNichols, his latest project made with Detroit jazz musician Sterling Toles over the last 13 years, houses some of the most daring music of his career. On standout selection “B.B. Butcher,” Boldy breathes life into the relentless Detroit streets that molded him. His trademark monotone feels piercing over Toles’ muffled rapid-fire drums and sample work, stressing there’s nothing worse in this world than “having to sell this dope.” “B.B. Butcher” is a tender moment from an artist on their second wind.
“Jail Pose With Gangstas” — Chris Crack feat. Rome Streetz
Few rappers are as confident as Chris Crack. Just look at some of the Chicago rapper’s song titles: ”Hypebeasts Ruined Bape” and “Chipped My Tooth Eating Pussy.” Crack’s smooth flows and commanding squawk keep his songs just serious enough to register. Take “Jail Pose With Gangstas,” a standout from his latest album Good Cops Don’t Exist. Over a haunting vocal loop, Crack waxes about setups and crunches an ill-fated friendship into two bars: “Went from LEGOs to chemistry lessons / to gettin’ calls about why his head missin’.” It’s a somber mood New York rapper Rome Streetz meets on his guest verse, all close drug calls and bars shitting on the game “like colostomy.” Crack and Streetz’s vision is unwavering, and “Jail Pose With Gangstas” is all the better for it.
“i need you” — Ivysound
Good love can move mountains. Just ask Florida rapper/producer Ivysound, whose latest song, “i need you,” finds him putting it all on the line for a special someone. “It’s funny how they laugh behind our backs,” he says with confidence before pining for his paramour from a distance. The self-produced beat floats on soft synths, a vocal sample, and bludgeoning drums working in tandem with Ivysound’s feelings to create a beacon powered by partnership. Times are tough. No one should have to go through it alone.
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.