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. Listen to the Lo-Fi Snack Pack playlist for these selections and more.
Chuck Strangers feat. KA — “Family Dollar”
Chuck Strangers understands a home is what you make of it. “Family Dollar,” a standout song from his latest EP Too Afraid To Dance, is an ode to and reflection on the circumstances and objects that defined his youth. New York humidity and store items sound mystical in Chuck’s hands, matching the glitter and rumble of the self-produced beat and guest KA’s equally reflective bars. “Family Dollar” sees the duo making the most of their humble beginnings.
Read our Gems interview: "Chuck Strangers’ Guide to Rapping & Producing Without Ego"
Michael Christmas — “Nissan Altima”
It’s hard to listen to a Michael Christmas song and not smile. The Boston rapper has been finding the jolly in the mundane for years, and his latest single, “Nissan Altima,” is no exception. Christmas jumps from day-dreaming about Vegas residencies and becoming president while eating ramen to singing about the titular “two-door black coupe” like it was a Rolls-Royce Wraith. It’s sweet without being saccharine, never taking itself too seriously while keeping big dreams within reach. Producers Tee-WaTT and Thelonious Martin give the beat a bounce and slight fuzz. “Nissan Altima” is the best kind of rap comfort food.
Caleb Giles — “Clockwise”
No matter what life throws at him, Bronx rapper-producer Caleb Giles keeps it moving. His latest album, Meditations, chronicles the search for peace in a chaotic world. On the standout song, “Clockwise,” he shakes off naysayers over a smoky beat from producer Lastnamedavid. “I illuminate the bread, you just flashin’ in the pan,” Caleb says, assuring himself. He raps through the xylophone and saxophones of the beat. “Clockwise” is Caleb’s attempt to bob and weave through the stresses of life with style.
Read our feature interview: "New York Rapper Caleb Giles Is Meditating While the World Burns"
Djay Cas — “Marble Racing”
South Carolina producer Djay Cas has made beats for everyone from Jeezy to Machine Gun Kelly to the late Nipsey Hussle. Not everything gets used, though. His latest EP, literally called Beats The Label Didn’t Want, is proof of that. All the beats are smooth low-tempo affairs, but none hit quite like “Marble Racing.” Cas rolls synths and piano off of soft drums to create a nice deep-blue musical canvas. It feels like good mood music, the kind of song you’d run in the background of a round of Marble Blast Ultra.