Hidden Gems: Zeroh, “0 EMISSIONS 2”

ZerohIn our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Zeroh’s greatest asset over the past 10 years has been his unique rapping style. He has a whirlwind of complex rhyme schemes that bleed from one bar into the next, with sudden explosions of vocal melody appearing without warning. His flow is marked by gymnastic patterns of syllables, the kind that require skill, focus, and creativity to execute.

At times, it can be difficult to focus on the individual words—especially when they’re treated with heavy distortion or paired with one of his more left-of-center beats. But when all of the pieces come together, the results are immersive and transportive.

2016’s 0 EMISSIONS 2 might be the best showcase of Zeroh’s prowess as both a lyricist and producer; throughout the album, those two elements are balanced in such a way that neither one interferes with the other. Though his lyrics are packed with poetic gems (“And if this mood don’t turn the earth / The other side might bake in the sun / Contained by rule and the curse of your birth / Sigh, nullify, shaking your fate can be fun”), Zeroh prioritizes the musicality of his raps over the clarity of their content. Instead of using cadence to accentuate words—highlighting punch lines and generally bringing the meaning of his lyrics into greater focus—his delivery is more like a jazz soloist than a narrator, pumping out four-count-defying rhythms and dynamic melodic runs.

He demonstrates equal stylistic flourish on the production side. The beats on standout tracks like “TUF.luv” and “Fried Eye for the Gemini” feel richly textured, even when they’re little more than a throbbing downbeat. They’re hollowed-out constructions, built with ample space to allow his vocals to do double duty, serving as both a vehicle for his lyrical imagery and a melodic sparkle for the instrumentals. “Rise of Fall” is built on bongos and an acoustic guitar and most of the melody is handled by the rhythm track, with Zeroh’s vocal performance syncopating with the soft drums to deepen the complexity.

Listening to Zeroh can feel a bit like staring at one of those Magic Eye paintings—a blur of stimuli that seems entirely abstract until a stark 3D image pops out of the chaos. 0 EMISSIONS 2 is no exception; equally free and calculated, it’s a stellar album from one of the underground’s most technically capable and intriguing artists.

-Ben Grenrock

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