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.
“Squeaky Hinge” — Mach-Hommy
Mach-Hommy’s mystique is his secret weapon. Well, that and being one of the best rappers alive. The New Jersey rapper/producer has spent the last five years building a mini-empire, allowing him to sell his music for thousands of dollars. On “Squeaky Hinge,” a single from his latest project Mach’s Hard Lemonade, he flaunts his confidence like a badge of honor: “Mach-Hommy must’ve saw something inside of his core / Everybody got it for cheap; he got it for more.” Over Nicholas Craven’s haunting piano loop, Hommy sounds Machiavellian. His flows are slippery, and his rhymes are more direct than ever.
“THE MAGICIAN” — Jay Versace
Is there anything Jay Versace can’t do? The producer spent much of the 2010s as a massive presence in internet comedy spaces and has, over the last few years, pivoted to flipping samples. He’s developed a good ear for loops, one which artists like Freddie Gibbs and the Griselda camp have come to appreciate. Hearing rappers make their way through his productions is thrilling, but Versace’s work breathes differently on its own. Take “THE MAGICIAN,” a spare beat he released this past July. The beat skips by on plucked guitar strings, dusty drums, and finger snaps that wouldn’t sound out of place in some beachfront scene.
“Bonnie & Clyde” — Black Noi$e feat. ZelooperZ
Calling ZelooperZ “animated” would be an understatement. The Detroit rapper changes his voice from song to song and verse to verse, jumping between octaves on a dime. You never know which ZelooperZ you’ll get when you press play on a song. His collaborations with Detroit producer/DJ Black Noi$e—including last year’s full-length album Dyn-O-Mite—tap into his unpredictable energy in exciting ways. The duo recaptures this energy on “Bonnie & Clyde,” a standout from Noi$e’s major-label debut album, OBLIVION. On it, ZelooperZ sinks into the hazy piano keys and dampened drums as he unleashes a garbled stream-of-consciousness. Like OBLIVION itself, “Bonnie & Clyde” lives and dies on the adventurousness of the artists at its center.
“Face” — Ovrkast. feat. Navy Blue
California rapper/producer Ovrkast. didn’t create the song “Face” with coronavirus in mind—the record appears on Try Again, released in January, months before the pandemic took hold in the United States—but it’s hard to hear lines like “I got people waiting on me, still tho, I can’t show my face” and not think about The New Normal. Its prescience is sobering. Even without its new context, “Face” is a somber slice of rap perfect for parsing thoughts. Ovrkast and guest Navy Blue’s reflective verses showcase the trials and tribulations of living in your own shadow, a feeling encapsulated in the song’s hopeful Skyler Vander Molen-directed video shot during the pandemic.
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.