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. The Lo-Fi Rap Snack Pack is a weekly column where we highlight four songs across the lo-fi spectrum. Listen to the Lo-Fi Snack Pack playlist for these selections and more.
Rasheed Chappell & Buckwild — “Black Owned”
New Jersey rapper Rasheed Chappell has been delivering concrete-hard raps for years, and his latest single, “Black Owned,” is no exception. In his world, COVID face masks come with stashed burners, and people show more respect than they do love. Rasheed’s observations echo over Buckwild’s menacing beat, all thudding drums, bells, and wind chimes; the bars sound like edicts being chiseled into stone. The way Rasheed and Buckwild command attention, it’s hard to imagine that anybody wasn’t listening before.
Jonathan Cloud — “This Side”
When it comes to rap, hunger is everything. Just ask Jonathan Cloud, the Boston-bred rapper-producer creating because his life depends on it. “There’s people on the planet tryna grab at your food,” he snarls over the wailing melody and bouncy drums of “This Side.” He’s dealt with paying for features that have never been delivered and friends faking support for clout, and you can hear his stress in every bar. The twinkling beat of “This Side” offers a glimmer of hope amid the eternal grind, one that Cloud is willing to keep up with, no matter the cost.
Hz. — “Sunset Lullaby”
As faithful Snack Pack readers know well, the simple pleasures of a good beat work wonders. California-based producer Hz. filters those pleasures into “Sunset Lullaby,” a standout from his latest project, Equinox Hues. The piano, bass, and drums flow into and out of each other like cresting waves on a shimmering beach. “Sunset Lullaby” evokes the light pastel hue you’d expect of a sunset, the spring kind that fills the sky with pinks and yellows around 7:30 p.m.
J’Lord Wimsely — “FLORAH”
Amsterdam-based producer J’Lord Wimsely relishes deep, dark grooves. His new single, “FLORAH,” features lots of dampened drums and low-octave synths, closing the gap between boom-bap and the Tron cinematic universe in the process. The mid-tempo beat is subtle and unfussy, moving in lockstep to a familiar but cozy rhythm. It feels like the dependable hoodie you throw on to stay warm during the kind of rainy walks that signal the segue from summer to fall. The deep grooves of “FLORAH” should be enough to keep any beat enthusiast’s head nodding for months to come.