Image from nostrumgrocers.bandcamp.com
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Rap music will not be halting anytime soon. Its omniscient presence dwells within the tapestry of entertainment. Whether it’d be the new Future song promoting a new movie, a new Sprite commercial starring Drake, or Travis Scott’s music inseminating nearly every Chicago radio station.
Now that the saturation of the genre has been only elevating its threshold, the skill level for the rapper must also rise as well. Gone are the days of backpack freestyling and breakdancing. Now the expectations come much higher and more strict when it comes to rappers receiving the most admiration among his or her fans.
So that when savant lyricists do come along the way, their names will, unfortunately, be muddled within the enmeshing of Drill rappers, Trap stars, Underground rappers, and a whole other spectrum of lyrical combatants. It’s a shame too, because, without the financial or social support, rappers with innate talent usually don’t have the voice for showcasing their capabilities for the world to hear.
Regardless of the amount of showmanship an artist has, nothing can deny the talent that disparages them all from one another. Eventually, through sheer will and support from the people, the most talented artists emerge from the sedimentary. Chicago-born rapper Milo happened to be one of those rising talents.
Milo had been in the underground Rap scene for a handful of years, debuting his first mildly successful project, so the flies don’t come. Milo is known for his philosophic wordplay condensed into witty and eloquent lyricism. It seems that he never runs out of clever metaphors, all while adding wily textures to them.
The other half of the duo, Elucid, is a New York rapper who is now notable for making up one half of the rap collaboration, Armand Hammer. After what seemed to be a three-year hiatus from their previous project, Furtive Movements, Armand Hammer seemed to recalibrate back into the underground scene with their project ROME, which surprisingly received positive receptions from listeners and critics alike.
Out of the blue, the two urban lyricists joined forces to collide in a collaboration effort, with the pseudonym of Nostrum Grocers. The self-titled project is a ten-track anthology of metaphysical ruminations and analytical poetry. Allowing these two to alternate with each other’s wordplay could be comparable to reading the poetry of Kahlil Gibran and novels of Victor Hugo back and forth. These two have been essentially known to bring out the best of their literary skills. Their capable minds articulate their conscious insights on the struggles of everyday life.
When these two rap, every word is easily understood and enunciated well. I feel that this is the right move to make at times. Removing the accent from spoken-word, the lyrics could be understood as poetry rather than a dialect. Typically, there usually isn’t anything wrong with some accent, but not every artist is a prestigious writer.
Once the accent slightly muddles the wordplay, the message isn’t sent out so clearly, which at some points ruins the experience. Milo and Elucid understand this and decide to allow the listener to comprehend the message based on their writing, not of their chosen intonation.
This project displays this approach well. Elucid and Milo both share a song equally. In the first track, circumcision is the first betrayal, Elucid and Milo deliver mind-whirling evocations that both display a good set of diction and thematic intransigence. With this song, there’s definitely some influence from the writing style of MF Doom. Elucid’s prose is direct, thematic, and cleanly menacing. Milo’s verse in this track bounces off from Elucid’s verse with hypnotic wordplay and understandable pauses between each heavy word.
Although with Milo’s verse, I feel that he takes more advantage of the diction than he does of his writing style. He tends to bounce from one bar to the next with a dictionary-heavy word, such as ‘Luddite’ and ‘videlicet.’ Once in a while isn’t bad and could be appealing. Although, Milo tends to use this approach with his rapping in general. Sometimes this could break away the engaging trance and instead leaves the listener having to go back and forth to a dictionary.
When it comes to the production side of the project, it’s unusual, but in an engaging way. These beats tend to define lo-fi beats with Jazz samples and heavy MPC snares. There is no sign of any J-Dilla influenced sound or any “throwback” beat. My favorite track, medium, is the perfect example of this. The beat is quiet, almost hushed with a mean beat pattern.
With regards to Milo’s previous records, this is one of the better ones in my opinion. Compared to his previous records, although progressive and intelligent, he doesn’t preach or pontificate as much over here. He matches his wordplay and penmanship with Elucid’s wordplay.
This album is intelligible enough to understand, yet cryptic enough to be ambiguous. At some points, the bars can be a little pretentious, but with dark and heavy production leveled by the flow of these two rappers, it almost doesn’t matter. Hopefully, these two come out with more efforts in the near future. This project shows that they could go well and beyond against the tides of their industry.