Earlier this month, Elucid, an inventive underground rapper from New York, and Rory Ferreira, who records under the names milo and scallops hotel and lives in Maine, issued their first self-titled record as a duo, Nostrum Grocers. In the past half-decade, both rappers have seen their audience grow in both size and rabid interest, despite the fact that both work outside the major label—or even major indie—machine, and neither make concessions, stylistic or otherwise, to the demands of the market. Nostrum Grocers is a brief, gorgeously-produced record that makes the abstract feel immediate.
The songs—produced in their entirety by the two MCs, and mixed by Elucid—unfold strangely, their methodical pace heightening the tension between the two rappers’ voices. On “milkdrunk,” Ferreira likens his newborn son’s yelling to a gun shell, both felt in the gut and requiring urgent attention. At the end of the patient, playful “‘where’ing those flowers,” Ferreira’s voice (and then Elucid’s) dissolves into chant that announces the duo’s place in the world: “Under the underground.” For obvious reasons, it’s hard not to think of “Under the Underground,” a song from an impossible-to-find Serengeti album from the late 2000s. On that song, Serengeti—the Chicago MC who is in many ways a stylistic forbearer to Ferreira—frets about empty venues and asks if one’s identity, and one’s worth as an artist, is tied to popular acceptance, understanding, or acclaim. The Nostrum Grocers’ answer is, emphatically, “No.”