Lucas Foster hangs with the grifters.
In 1980s England, the most subtle and understated type of rebellion took place in university dorms and sparsely furnished flats as androgynous proto-hipsters wearing cardigans and slacks began making what we now know as indie pop. In opposition to the sweaty machismo of punk and neon futurism of New Wave, they self-recorded simple lo-fi guitar pop tunes in wool sweaters. They called their music “pop” with the not-so-subtle implication that in a perfect world, jangly and intimate guitar music would be what played on the radio.
Souljah Music has a similar wishful inclination; that in a perfect world the monochromatic maximalism of radio trap’s triplets and autotune would be replaced with the understated basement trap of this project. After releasing four tapes that explored four different futuristic soundscapes of the underground over the last 18 months, Wifi has made a minimalist, DIY street record that fuses early cloud rap and contemporary trap music. On many songs the simple and lush electronic melodies wouldn’t sound out of place on old Main Attraktionz or SGP beats, but from the opening track any listener can tell that this is not simply cloud rap revival.
The tape kicks off with San Diego production wizkid cryjng and Wifi breathing new life into Dem Franchize Boyz 2004 classic “White Tee.” The unmastered remix of Wifi’s post-Sosa flows over icy synths and bass clipping sets the tone for 13 more explorations of the Uptown DC neighborhoods Wifi calls home.
Like early indie records, the lo-fi sound is as much a product of home studio equipment as a stylistic choice. Wifi developed his distinct lo-fi sound by learning to work with the limitations of snowball mics and Garageband for years. More than any tape he’s released since updating his equipment, that lo-fi, DIY aesthetic is apparent on every track. Fully mixed by Jelani Kwesi, the clipped drums and heavy reverb give the fourteen tracks a stylistic glue, making transitions between portraits of days in the studio and nights in the streets seamless.
While most street rap functions as a resume of its protagonists credentials, Souljah Music captures quiet moments. Hanging on the block, selling weed in high school hallways, riding around town with a girl. Maybe if you’re looking for 35 minutes of drill bangers or auto-tune anthems, it’s not the tape for you, but indie music is never made with the masses in mind.