Luke Benjamin eats his Top Ramen raw.
As much as we’d like everyday to be pastels and paradise, reality is more complicated—rents are due, and sunshine doesn’t shine brightly through foreclosed blinds. What is one to do on the thirty-first thirty dollars short? Start a GoFundMe? Necessary jokes aside (ironic humor is the only defense against capitalist brutality), this scenario is all too real for too many artists and humans, disenfranchised by a system that has continually devalued the work of all those who don’t code, construct, or exploit.
The odds of making truly great art are considerably diminished in a commercial-monolith of a country, in which a dwindling creative under- and middle-class goes largely unsupported. Still, rap music has never been better, and even when rent’s past due, lojii and Swarvy manage to make a very good version of it. In the midst of crushing, viscerally real concerns, the beats still crinkle and crackle with re-purposed nostalgia and the raps still push forth with a methodical edge from one too many instant Ramen dinners.
lojii relates his world with unadorned precision, a wizened storyteller who knows the most beautiful, backwards, and profoundly true scenes are in the everyday of unpaid bills, too-practiced smiles, and passions pushed away into bare cupboards. Even when the fridge is empty, the rapping’s still good, so tightly packed sixteens will have to substitute for breakfast until checks clear.
“Northern Organix” is the fourth single from the literally titled Due Rent, lojii and Swarvy’s collaborative album put out by the remarkably curated Portland indie label Fresh Selects. “Northern Organix” is the funkiest thing this side of Anderson .Paak, all undulating looped chords and steady percussion that sounds plucked from a golden-age record. If you tune your ear just right you can hear a soul beating along with the bassline; Due Rent is, after all, a project as human and fallible as its creators.
lojii and Swarvy eschew the mythos that accompanies artistic narrative, instead finding enough to mine in the quotidian, enough joy in simply living, breathing, and having some beats to write to. “Northern Organix” is realistic joy, dancing in your kitchen as you cook a meal, finding a little residue at the bottom of a grinder. It’s not world-shattering, but there’s something to be said for just some damn good hip-hop in hard times—no bombs dropped; just solid rhyming and breakbeats.