Dystopian Summer, Edition One Million: The Return of Rhys Langston

Will Schube takes a look at the new single from Rhys Langston.
By    August 15, 2018

This website is user-supported. Any donation is immensely appreciated: https://www.patreon.com/passionweiss

Will Schube is eating tacos in Echo Park.

Rhys Langston’s on that quiet come up. Take a look at his discography—especially last year’s Aggressively Ethnically Ambiguous, which we premiered here—and you’ll see the steady development of tricks and playful turns begin to cohere into a unique body of sound. He’s not quite hyper-dense, but not quite outside of the art rap spectrum, either. There’s a playful knowingness to his work, an inside joke between artist and listener in which there’s a tacit acknowledgement that this contract—the peddling of rap music—is both low stakes and crucially important.

Aggressively Ethnically Ambiguous was a shockingly pure distillation of Langston’s form, ideas previously percolating now shot out of a cannon to the forefront. That confidence has jutted outwards, opening up a lane where the emcee can start feeling himself—the only sort of mind frame that allows an artist to drop a track as startlingly assured as “Thanks for Asking, I’m Feeling Fine,” and slap it as a freestyle, a one-off that connects the world he’s made with how he plans to populate it in the future.

Over a slow-burning and densely sweet drum groove, Langston shows off a singing voice that’s another tool for the ol’ Swiss-Army knife, before going straight for the jugular in his first verse. “Which A&R should we ban/ The ones who signed Bhad Bhabie/ Or the ones who shoot up country music festivals?” He’s got a mealy-mouthed delivery to his flow, exacting a style in which cerebral wordplay and texture are given equal weight—a searingly melodic game in which too much focus on the hypnotic, low-flow outpour of his lilt can take away from lines about fidget spinners and live streams and the crippling dread of these being the signifiers that we can relate to, and vice versa.

After a tour through our modern hellscape, always stream of consciousness but never letting the river flow shape his direction, Langston comes to a depressingly contemporary realization: “But I’m alright yo/ Thanks for asking.” Langston spells out that rap music isn’t a salvation but a salve. Like everything good, too much weight allows for cracks in the seams. Rhys Langston’s holding it together; all this in a three minute freestyle. If someone could find an A&R who doesn’t drool dollar signs, Rhys Langston’s off the cuff loosies would be national currency.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!