Well, looks like your girl Thursday decided to show up for class this week. While I can’t believe I’m already throwing down another payment on my brand-new apartment, I’m even more shook that I conquered the month prior. It was a tumultuous one for many reasons. There’s my reverse seasonal depression and an uprooting from the Gulf Coast to the West, but perhaps more than anything, I pushed myself to the brink of the heaviest of metal. After immersing myself in a funeral doom list and complete DSBM retrospective, I felt the need to shift gears a bit; to untether my soul from the floor and breathe in all of this nice hippie air around me. Still depressive but whipped up a little lighter, cream of the crop experimental hip-hop is what I listened to in between the lines of July. With life finally starting to lessen its flux, these are sure to be tracks that’ll encompass defining summer moments in a bottle.
Lil Narnia – “Her Heart Has Flowers Inside”
There are a lot of accusations of appropriating metal culture in arenas where they don’t really apply. Just recently I remember a screenshot circulating on Twitter of a MetalSucks article wagging fingers at rapper Bones for wearing black metal merch, implying that he isn’t actually a fan and is solely sporting the look for aesthetic purposes. Of course, artists like Bones and Ghostemane have been pretty vocal about their metal influences. The irony extends a bit further when you consider how your typical metal dude looks less like Ghost and more like Lil Narnia – a bearded man in a nondescript hoodie. I guess by this strain of logic the lad earns the status of Approptimus Prime by belting out post-hardcore clean singing instead of fronting a doom metal three piece. Such tangled webs we weave here in the blogsphere.
That being said, it’s shitty to reduce artists to the discrepancy between what their appearance makes you think their voice will sound like versus what it actually sounds like. Lil Narnia could quite literally be that corny little centaur hobbit thing in the scarf and I would still hit repeat on his latest drop “Her Heart Has Flowers Inside.” What is really noteworthy is that the obscuring of the lyrics doesn’t take away from the song. The mellow mood and message of heartbreak is still very much conveyed, teaching us a next-level lesson in emo rap’s “feel, don’t tell” rule. The result is 2018’s response to the 2000’s alt rock waves-on-beaches vibes of Incubus, but, of course, with the fusion of vocals that defined the second half of the decade.
Bexey & $uicideboy$ – “Cutthroat Smile”
Just a year ago I can recall Bexey getting a pretty mixed response (to put it mildly) on his video for “Running Blind.” I personally enjoyed both track and visuals for what they are, but I didn’t take him overly-seriously, casually listening to the rapper in the same vein that I would, say, Hella Sketchy. By keeping an open mind, I eventually found an appreciation for his ultra-atmospheric mixtape with Lil Peep, Romeo’s Regrets. Finally getting to see the UK rapper perform live from behind his dark sunglasses and skin-tight jeans is what finally drove it all home. His passion clearly read through his get-up, making his whole shtick congeal. Bex may be an acquired taste, but he stuck with it through the hate, giving listeners time to figure him out as an artist (and time to figure himself out as well). Standing as the face of resilience, he totes his sharpened talent with trailblazer $uicideboy$.
While some tracks are overly-dependent on a feature artist or fire beat (FEFE), “Cutthroat Smile” could easily rest solely on Bexey. While he’s come off a bit timid on past solo work, here he commits to the more challenging flow and riskier visuals. While it’s always a hit to record some vaporwave-fused graphics with your friends around the city, doing more theatrical goth shit can just come off plain cheesy if it’s not owned up to. Dropping Sweeney Todd and Saw references in between Ruby Da Cherry begrudging emergence from the shadows of fame is not a back-and-forth to be taken for granted. Together, “Cutthroat” is an exemplary example of Astari-emerging artists’ potential for growth.
Jay Vee & guccihighwaters – “Rewind”
Despite attending junior high open gym night when overt autotune was the hot new thing on the market, I was pretty ignorant of the world of production until more recently. I guess it doesn’t really help when you’re partial to black metal that isn’t even mixed. Fortunately, I eventually grew fond of nothing,nowhere. (an understatement). The ghostly artist’s embracing of his technical confidant, Jay Vee, helped me understand that there must be someone who actually sits down and strings together all of the layers of fusion genres. Contrary to what it may feel like, this shit is not just magic pulled out of thin air. I may not be the quickest study (I’m cringing hard and you should be, too), but after digging through Soundcloud for the past year or so, I’ve found myself tracing the most standout sounds back to Jay time and time again. When you combine this foundation with the voice of another young prodigy, guccihighwaters, you’re bound to create the importance that is “Rewind.”
Emerging from behind the scenes provides a chance to showcase other talents; conveying the merits of collared checkered shirts, but also producing soul-wrenching guitar work. While we’re seeing a different side of Jay Vee, the first half of the track is dedicated to what he does best – lifting you up wherever you are and taking you to another emotive dimension. Like a tape skipping, we’re suddenly dropped a step lower as we’re hit with the full trifecta of guitar, beats, and vocals. Fast favorite guccihighwaters floats at the top but is hardly forgotten. While this particular track may be a short one, it does what it needs to do. Hit repeat and one play will run seamlessly into the next until your entire afternoon slips by in a dreamlike state.
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Tune in next week to Thirsty Thursday for more from Jenna.