Vinyl LP, Cassette
It wouldn’t be wrong to describe the music of B. Cool-Aid as neo-soul—but it wouldn’t exactly be right, either. The duo’s work has all the warmth and feel of the Soulquarians, but their spin on it is decidedly more rugged and rap-centric. Long Beach, CA producer Ahwlee favors the sound of Dilla’s solo productions rather than his work with that collective And Pink Siifu, the musical polymath from Cincinnati, Ohio, moves between rapping and singing so subtly that the distinction between the two is often negligible. In short, B. Cool-Aid situate themselves comfortably at the intersection of neo-soul and indie rap.
Syrup, the group’s new seven-track EP, is their best offering yet, a cohesive record that manages to feel expansive despite its brief runtime. That expansiveness is due largely to Ahwlee’s beats, which are downtempo, loose, and open. Then, of course, there are Siifu’s lax staccato rhymes and his honeyed, raspy singing, both of which warrant favorable comparisons to Anderson .Paak.
In addition to being more soulful than the group’s 2017 debut, BRWN, which skewed closer to R&B, Syrup is heavier thematically. While the sun-dappled “me&u” is a brilliant and nostalgic love song, it’s the only one. Siifu primarily uses Ahwlee’s suites to reflect on the more harrowing aspects of the black experience. On “syruphands,” for instance, where Ahwlee loops ballad-turned-lowriding-staple “Sitting in the Park,” Siifu laments the deaths of black people in neighborhood parks around the world. It’s as though Ahwlee’s beats are an analgesic for the pain Siifu explores. In this respect and others, Syrup offers relief as much as it inspires deep thinking.