Will Schube bends words like Chevys bend around curbs.
On his first few records, Rhys Langston made it abundantly clear that he had an affinity for words. Not only an affinity, but a wildly imaginative method of splicing them together to make new meanings out of things that were never before relatable. Sure, it’s what rap is mostly about, but the words Langston would use and the way he’d use them felt different. His latest EP, Master Fader on Speed Dial, which POW is both premiering and releasing, is no different in this sense. But on the record, Langston has developed a keen sense of melody that can too often allude hyper-verbose emcees.
On Master Fader, Rhys adds ways to keep evolving his sound, but this increased focus on melody and song structure doesn’t take away from the lyrical dexterity that’s made him a growing fixture in LA’s indie rap scene. It’s a shame that Langston doesn’t have a Project Blowed or Hellfyre Club at his disposal, because the way he maneuvers around the pocket on these six tracks recall the sort of groundbreaking work those two squads helped introduce. As it currently is, though, Langston presents a portrait of the artist growing more assertive and confident by the multisyllabic word.
On “no predicates,” wandering horn, vocal, and drum samples slowly begin to melt together into a beat as Langston laces words together in a way that sounds more like a vertical stacking than the linear progression of lines. It’s on a track like this that Langston flexes his unique approach to language, re-imagining words as more than descriptors, instead equating sound, delivery, and tone with definitions. Langston fills these more avant, theoretical practices with morsels of melodies and hooks that keep the weirder moments from ever becoming unhinged. It’s impressive self-awareness, his ability to push towards an abyss, face it, and return home having digested whatever offerings the horizon presented.
On “oldnewmans (salty petulant raps),” the beat lurches towards a head-nodding boom-bap, with Rhys testing out floating melodies that sift the track of its bulk and amplify its texture. “This music sounds like a temp track,” he notes with a chuckle.
This has always been the linchpin of Langston’s music. Wherever he may go with words, beats, rhythms, or melodies, there’s a dark humor always present. Perhaps it’s the curse of the underground artist in the 21st century, or the musings of another 20-something trying to make money out of rap songs (the modern day alchemy), but Langston’s words have always been hilarious. This is the sort of shit that’s only funny because acknowledging its reality would probably make you cry. After all, the lead single from his last album was called “The Jesus of Los Feliz.” But with the way he raps, fuck it, Silverlake needs a poet laureate anyways.