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.
Madlib — “Road Of The Lonely Ones”
No matter what state the world is in, one thing will always be certain: I see a link to a new Madlib song, I click it. The California beat maestro recently dropped a few new tracks for hungry fans, and while they’re both ear candy, “Road Of The Lonely Ones” is the clear standout. Madlib has perfected the art of piecing barely embellished loops together to create his own worlds, a skill shown with the layering of sweet coos over a shuffling drumline and bassline lingering like fog after a rainstorm. Just more proof to always bet on the Loop Digga.
KEY! x Tony Seltzer — “Rida Rida”
Atlanta rapper KEY! and producer Tony Seltzer may have seemed like an odd pairing in 2020, but their collaborative debut, The Alpha Jerk, assures how neatly their styles complement each other. KEY!’s chameleonic ability to melt into any beat suits him across Seltzer’s varied production, particularly on mid-album highlight “Rida Rida.” Fuzzy piano and string samples bubble beneath the surface of drum claps as KEY! compares he and his friends to Ed, Edd n Eddy and hits licks in a New Era hat through distorted vocals. The song’s hazy atmosphere makes it an outlier on the otherwise crisp and clean-sounding album. “Rida Rida” is also a testament to KEY! and Seltzer’s mutual affection for fun experimentation.
Silvan North — “Drops on water”
There are few things in this world as cleansing as a good rainfall. Producer Silvan North tries their hardest to bottle this essence on “Drops on water,” one of the latest in a spattering of new singles released at the top of the year. North utilizes string plucks, skittering 808s, snaps, and wobbling synths to simulate the pitter-patter of rain on a window, each instrument dotted across the track like points on a line graph. “Drops on water” is the audio equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine; it’s the whirs and clicks falling into place as the rainstorm continues.
Cheap Monk — “Sendero”
Spain-based producer Cheap Monk’s single “Sendero” from his latest EP, Terraza, is an example of what I like to call “dusk music.” It’s the kind of song reflective of the sun setting on the horizon, turning the clouds pink and orange as a show before encroaching nightfall. His synths and drums have a dreamlike quality, effortlessly floating through the thoughts and feelings that come with the end of a long day. “Sendero” feels like a long exhale with a burst of color, and sometimes, that’s all you really need.