On Malik Ruff, Quadry’s voice may call to mind Isaiah Rashad with a dash of Love Below André 3000, but there’s a depth to his approach and delivery that establishes him as someone distinct from his Southern rap peers. Some of that is due to the album’s post-genre aesthetic: the songs on Malik Ruff blur the lines between hip-hop, R&B, indie rock, and folk blues, giving the whole project a cohesive but unpredictable sense of atmosphere. “1:04 PM,” produced by Steve Lacy of The Internet, rides a guitar riff that sounds like Terry Callier filtered through ’90s Matador, and spread across an Aquemini drum break. But that’s just one example of the omnivorousness of a record that sounds as much like a singer/songwriter effort as it does a Southern rap record. There’s also the Brainfeeder-on-the-Mississippi soul jazz of Lacy/Romil co-production “Bluegrass” and the Teo Halm-produced downtempo groove on “Momma.” When Quadry raps about “bumpin’ Boosie old shit/switch it up to Pink Floyd” over the loping beats and lightheaded synths on “Nowhere to Be Found,” it’s practically a meta-comment on the record itself.
But influences don’t mean much without experiences, and Quadry relates his from a perspective that finds realness and strength in vulnerability. “Wesley (For My Son)” successfully executes a difficult concept: Quadry narrates a letter to himself from the point of view of his semi-estranged father, who died in 2016 (“It won’t wait, so chase while you can, son/Only regret, I’ll never see my grandson”). He follows that song with “Momma,” where he empathizes with his mother’s concerns about his future, in a voice that oscillates between guilt and pride. It’s the culmination of an album where lyrics about restless travel (“Motion/Settle”), getting high (“Louis”), and buying new sneakers (“Cross (New Shoes)”) are bursting with self-reflection, personality, and intricate detail.