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.
“1992 Pog Champ” — Ohbliv
Virginia producer Ohbliv’s personality shines through his production. Take “1992 Pog Champ,” the penultimate song on LewseJoints Number 8 (a), one of two new beat tapes the producer released on August 4. The song is buoyed by a smooth beat floating on drums and wind chimes that transcends its surroundings. “Pog Champ” isn’t simply nostalgic; it conjures playing with the titular toys at dusk in a backyard or a street corner, the magic hour between a summer afternoon and a summer night. Ohbliv’s beat is as comforting and sweet as a package of Dunkaroos.
“Sawdust Underground” — Marlowe
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The North Carolina duo Marlowe—composed of producer L’Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham—is a hip-hop whirlwind. Their sophomore album, Marlowe 2, amplifies the energy of their self-titled debut. Look no further than “Sawdust Underground” to see Solemn rapping for his life over L’Orange’s deft sample work. The drums crack and the sample whizzes by while Solemn raps about overcoming his creative frustrations (“I spent my life trying to be everything they sayin’ is missing”). You can hear every step Solemn has taken to reach the top of his mountain. “Sawdust Underground” pops with the energy of a splash page in a comic book, Marlowe bursting through the wall to save the game from wackness.
“Killa Season Shoulda Won an Oscar” — Koncept Jack$on
Koncept Jack$on raps like he’ll never run out of words. Every 16 or 32-bar verse sounds like it could be followed with several more to give The Game’s “200 Bars” a run for its money. Thot Rap Chapter 2, the Virginia rapper’s latest project, is no exception. Koncept packs all 17 tracks with quotables but few stack up to “Killa Season Shoulda Won an Oscar,” which is a perfect pairing of raps and beats. Jack$on’s thoughts spill into each other, jumping from musing on the 2006 Cam’ron film the song is named after to images of drop-top beamers and comparing his rise to bubbles in a Seagram’s ginger ale. The self-produced beat—scant vocal samples over a synth crescendo—matches the dreamlike quality of his raps, a prophecy that continues to self-fulfill with each passing project.
“Street Lights” — Irish Kuzco
Sunset is a difficult image to capture without pictures. Texas-based producer Irish Kuzco takes a crack at crafting pink skies and late afternoon bliss on “Street Lights,” a highlight from his latest project Sounds Lost In The City. The beat is little more than bubbly piano keys, a drum loop, and a disembodied vocal sample. Still, it’s easy to picture fading sunlight shining through the cracks in cramped buildings, lighting paths home, and glinting off of the storefronts gearing up for rush hour food service. It’s easy to imagine a world unaffected by COVID while listening to “Street Lights,” a world where the biggest worry is getting home before the street lights turn on.
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.