When R.A.P. Ferreira says, “There’s a lot that go in/ For a trickle to come out,” he’s talking about his uncanny ability to consume vast corners of cosmic wisdom from rappers, philosophers, artists, and poets, and alchemize their ideas into his art. (He’s also got the ability to explain that skill in a concise bar.) Since killing off the milo alias in 2019, Ferreira has been consumed with the role of the artist in America, documenting his journeys in albums with esoteric titles like Purple Moonlight Pages, 5 to the Eye With Stars, and now, the First Fist to Make Contact When We Dap. Where milo was a college dropout prone to meandering, R.A.P. Ferreira is designing his own curriculum and language, ready to live and die by his art.
Throughout Fist, Ferreira navigates the anxiety, uncertainty, and struggle that comes with being a Black artist striving for self-sufficiency. He feels best about the journey on “Jes’ Grew In Osaka,” rapping, “Stress is a symphony/ I conduct whimsically.” Ferreira has always asked more of the listener, but here he’s asking more of himself as First Fist stretches out to encompass a universe of rap sounds: “humble vessel” is an Auto-Tuned sea shanty that recalls 808s & Heartbreaks; “hereing color, green” channels the playful spirit of Slum Village’s Baatin, and on “bending corners (sittin sidewayz revisited),” Ferreira rewrites a Paul Wall classic.
His inspired performances on the First Fist are complemented by spacious and inventive production from Tokyo-based Fumitake Tamura. Much like Kenny Segal and the Jefferson Park Boys guided prior sea-change moments for Ferreira—from reclaiming his Blackness on milo’s So The Flies Don’t Come to killing off the pseudonym entirely on Purple Moonlight Pages—Tamura widens the lens, crafting sprawling sonic tapestries atop which Ferreira tests out new styles. Tamura can locate emotional gravity in even a razor-thin timestamp, whether it’s the chippy, soulful bop of “begonias”; the church band stripped for parts on “elite mind flayer judo”; or funky frontiers of slap bass on “bending corners.” It’s a masterful effort.
Ferreira’s still not for everyone—especially those with no interest in doing the necessary Googling to define “euroclydon”—but he’s increasingly trying to edge his avant-garde corner closer to the zeitgeist without compromising his integrity. By absorbing popular styles on the First Fist, Ferreira presents a thesis of Black music that has no boundaries or sects. He’s the robed Cyrus from The Warriors, standing before a midnight summit of united gangs declaring: “It’s all our turf.”