Evan Nabavian’s favorite Ghost is Dennis Coles.

Rap fans’ years of bellyaching about radio pandering left them bereft of rappers who can rap well and make songs with real musicality. The infighting created an ideological divide between rappers with skill and rappers with style (oversimplifying, of course) where hooks and catchiness fell in the latter category. Those young ideologues grew up to be people like me: disillusioned vultures who today would like nothing more than to hear a rap song with a melody without having to settle for assholes like Big Sean.

Newcomer Azizi Gibson is the rare rapper whose one line bio – from all over, ended up in LA, signed to Brainfeeder – suggests he trades in far-left beats and deadpan, but instead builds songs around more elusive musical structures like melodies and hooks. Beneath the estimable underground cosign and manga references is a rapper who sounds more like A$AP Rocky than Blu. Ghost in the Shell is pop rap for the pop-averse.

Gibson raps about little more than girls, drugs, and his friends and he does it with an eye-watering flow that he loves to show off on songs like “S.S.B. (100MPH)”. But it’s not a gimmick or a crutch. He has just as much fun half-singing on “Party Woman” about knocking out some poor sucker and stealing his girlfriend. At first, his sense of humor might resemble Tyler, the Creator’s, but Gibson’s levity is more Slim Shady. He does his ad-libs in goofy voices and has fun being a caricature of a rapper, like when he croons “Breakfast in bed turned to breakfast and head” over a soul groove.

The beats are a mix of new sounds and nods to the classics. Familiar samples pop up just as often as hi-hat rolls. Gibson’s voice ties it all together – there are no features – so much so that it never sounds like he’s rapping over two different kinds of tracks. The twenty-something rapper’s tastes and influences are all over the place. “Your Welcome” opens with Navi’s “Hey! Listen!” chirp from Ocarina of Time but otherwise could have been written for Drake.

In a roundabout way, it makes sense that Flying Lotus would scoop up a rapper with Azizi Gibson’s sensibilities. Having won every accolade the core audience has to offer, underground champs like Lotus seem to appreciate good music with a broader appeal. Ghost in the Shell won’t send you on a psychedelic odyssey, but it will do you one better: it will get stuck in your head.

ZIP: Azizi Gibson – Ghost in the Shell (Left-Click)

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