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.
“S.R.D.,” a standout song from DJ Peter Rosenberg’s recent compilation Real Late, puts two generations of New York talent—Yonkers’ Styles P, Brooklyn’s Ransom, and Harlem’s Smoke DZA— together for just over three minutes of flexing and world-weary perspective. Producer Buck Dudley’s beat crackles like a warped VHS tape, giving “S.R.D.” the feeling of a slice of lost media sourced from a night at defunct New York nightclub The Tunnel.
With summer rapidly approaching, music with warmer tones is bubbling to the surface. “Solstice,” a collaboration between producer Middle School and saxophonist Henry Gritton for Chillhop’s Essential Summer 2021 compilation, welcomes the sunny weather with deep grooves. Drums, soft keyboards, and a heaping spoonful of horns paint a picture of an afternoon sidewalk bathed in sunlight, where a good tan and a cold drink are the only cares you might have.
Italian producer Lo-Fi Tigers is proving to be a master of atmosphere. “All Those Times You Were Wrong,” their latest collaboration with the curation service Pueblo Vista, is an extension of the thoughtful state of mind shown on “Let Me Cry On Your Chest.” A wall of synths, drums, water drop sound effects, and wind chimes are enough to submerge any listener in reflection for its nearly three-minute runtime.
Guyanese producer Saint Alexvnder’s “Oceanside”—a single from their latest EP Middle of Somewhere—is the definition of buoyant. Synth lines, keyboards, drums, and warped vocal samples float by slowly, bringing to mind dusk at a shoreline. “Oceanside” contains all the simple pleasures of splashing your feet in high tide.