I learned a new term this week – “cloud rap.” I hope you’re proud of me.
Anyway, I came across said term while doing some research on Lushlife, a Philadelphia-based producer and emcee whose hypnotic beats are often laced with an intoxicating burst of ambiance and fluffy psychedelic. From that brief description of his work you can probably see how the “cloud rap” moniker might fit.
Clouds, like dreams, bring to mind a pastoral, uncomplicated concept that none us really understand (how many of you are meteorologists or neuroscientists? Yeah, that’s what I thought) yet we all know rather innately through our own experience. You know what a cloud is, you know what a dream is, and you know that both come with a certain pre-established literary/artistic significance. It’s difficult to describe, something that floats halfway between science and aesthetic, yet that particular je-ne-sais-pas is so hard to miss that it could never sneak away.
Plateau Vision, Lushlife’s second full-length, comes hot off the heels of his No More Golden Days mixtape, which Lushlife released last fall. If you liked No More Golden Days, you’ll get into this, too, most likely. Same style, same guests, and even some of the same songs abound (sorry but, no, we don’t get the masterful Katy Perry “Teenage Dream” remix, again).
The album kicks off with “Magnolia,” a jazzy introduction to Lushlife’s overall style with a bouncy bassline and some glistening harp flutters. Lushlife says something about Zola Jesus, Henry James, wallabies, Coney Island, and whatever. He’s got a tendency to show off how many references he can throw into one track (ain’t that hip-hop?). Sometimes it’s impressive – come on, you gotta admit that you never thought you’d see Zola Jesus and Wallabies in the same song – though sometimes it’s downright annoying.
Thankfully, Lushlife’s production is usually so spot-on with inventive flourishes and fly-by-night flickers of genius, that even when he gets overly verbose and hyper-referential the backing track is still strong enough to slay my miniscule attention span. Just to circle back to the whole cloud rap thing, his strongest moments are those where he ignores topicality and lets the mood takeover with layer upon layer of foggy, blissed-out synths, samples and 80’s-tastic drum fills.
Imagine Washed Out, but a hip-hop version. Sounds sweet right?
Plateau Vision features an expansive guest list (well expansive by indie standards…by hip-hop standards this is more like a happening than a party) with Styles P, Andrew Cedermark, Hemes and Cities Aviv rolling through the liner notes. Each one adds a little something new, usually by way of guest verses and sung choruses.
Nonetheless the real star of the album is Lushlife’s pure understanding of atmosphere. Inventive production tactics and hypnotic flourishes are this guy’s calling and he doesn’t disappoint. This isn’t hip hop for nodding your head and rolling in the Benz – this is something best pulled out at your next black light and face paint party or whenever you decided it’s a good time to lie back and turn off your mind.For more on Lushlife and Plateau Vision check out lushlifemedia.bandcamp.com