Max Bell just caught a hair cut.
L.A. geography isn’t conducive to crews. The likelihood that you must commute to commune with your posse is probable. That peripatetic movement is sluggish, mind numbingly mundane, and bang-your-head-against-the-dash-wood frustrating is also highly likely. Yet musically inclined cliques continue to pop up all over the urban sprawl, convening in bedrooms, studios, and/or bedroom studios that don’t require major label backing.
Hellfyre Club and Team Supreme are two such crews, paragons of innovation, productivity, and collaboration despite the curbed mobility. For years, producers from the former have invariably worked in studios with rappers from the latter. A collaborative project was inevitable. You can now unZIP their four track EP, Catcher of the Fade, which dropped gratis earlier this week (download here; stream below via 2DopeBoyz).
The EP’s obvious analogue is Dorner vs. Tookie, the expansive and endlessly entertaining sampler of all things Hellfyre. The cast has been trimmed here, but the ethos remains the same. The personal is proffered and somehow universal. You may not assuage your ennui by binge shopping on Etsy or scrolling IMDB for Ghost Dog quotes, you may not Catfish your secretary to avoid ingesting furniture polish, but you have your own means of coping. You understand the impetus.
Milo, Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle, Verbs, Nietzsche Cortez (formerly Rheteric Ramirez), William Thedford (formerly Kail)—all are in top form while experimenting with just that. Milo spends an entire verse on self-analysis only to undo any progress with one half-sung line (“building gray”). Driver exorcises the ephemeral before finding new speeds for stacking syllables (“Lyp”). OME pens poignant, Wes Anderson-esque fair with a Tarantino twist (“1 of mine”). Verbs and Thedford spit free-associative barbs while Cortez rewrites Fatal Attraction for indie rappers.
All of the above is done over some of the best, most forward-thinking rap production you’re apt to hear this year. Nalepa tempers off-kilter percussion with sweeping, atmospheric chords (“1 of mine”). Great Dane takes his low-end heavy production to play a game of laser tag, or something. Promnite’s suite shimmers between the sub fracturing bass before descending into eerie smooth jazz (isn’t it all?). Penthouse Penthouse subtly slap the bass over cavernous drums.
I’ve listened to the EP at least ten times now. I should have more trenchant and insightful things to say. Instead, whenever it ends, a quote from its titular inspiration seems more fitting than anything else. I’ve modified those words below so that it’s slightly more germane (forgive me, Mr. Salinger).
“What really knocks me out is a [song] that, when you’re all done [listening to] it, you wish the [rapper] that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
Writing about rap music has actually afforded me that privilege. Not all of the rappers on this EP are terrific friends, but some have accepted my Facebook friend request and/or follow me on Twitter. Still, every one continues to spill enough red blood cells on record that calling (modern equivalent: DMing) to ask them anything feels false. When you realize that your circle isn’t the shield you thought it was, their music makes it easier to breathe and be alone. Especially when you leave the house. Safe travels.