The main attraction of Heem Stogied’s music is his genuinely “unorthodox flow.” The Atlanta underground rapper is a master of nested lyrical patterns, regularly rhyming eight or more bars at a time until his verses accumulate a bulletproof momentum. His voice is an instrument, with tone and inflection conveying as much emotion as his actual words, and the echoing syllabic cadences lend an extemporaneous quality to his impassioned conviction and peerless technique.
Still, Stogied’s vocal delivery isn’t the only “unorthodox” aspect of his music. A practitioner of assertive first-person monologues and intuitively nimble wordplay, the 25-year-old began rapping during his adolescent years in Virginia and later formed relationships with more established artists through an uncle’s barber shop in Atlanta, leading to his first recording sessions in a local studio. Since embarking upon a prolific run of Bandcamp releases in early 2017, he’s favored emphatic EPs over sprawling full-lengths, and his albums generally feature production work by a single composer. In the spring of 2017, he released a series of tapes spotlighting a triad of Toronto producers; since then he’s recorded projects with beatsmiths from Los Angeles, Austria, Sweden, and Japan. The juxtaposition of Stogied’s Southern accent with sounds from distant shores makes for a blunted mystique reminiscent of the Dungeon Family collective.
A quickly growing catalog has allowed listeners to witness Stogied’s growth in real time, his polish and ambition becoming more evident with each successive release. The nine projects selected below capture an artist in motion across the last two years.
With production duties split between Montreal’s Nicholas Craven and fellow Atlantan Tha God Fahim, February 2017’s The Definition of Pimpin’ full-length presents soulful collaborations with a raw finish. A soaring sax sample on “No Love” and melancholy bells on “The Come Up” prove apt backdrops for profuse lyrical declamations, and the climactic “Mouth Full of Chips” provides an early glimpse of Stogied’s impenetrable flow.
The first entry in Stogied’s 2017 Toronto trilogy, Loss Prevention features an EP’s worth of muscular production from Bozack Morris, whose sturdy loops and steady tempos generate an inspired performance. With cinematic ambience, the highlight “Rose Gold” finds the rapper embracing modulated songwriting, whereas “Paranoia (Freestyle)” thrums on unstructured energy. Stogied executes a range of rhythmic cadences on the somber closer “Stuck In My Ways,” his words ranging from brash posturing to earnest truisms. Loss Prevention’s pummeling sound and considered rhymes make it an approachable entry point for Stogied’s discography.
5 Finger Discount is a heavy, cohesive record, the kind that makes a bold statement. Ol Man 80zz’s moody production consists of eerily filtered vocals, spacey percussion, and uneasy chord progressions, with the occasional flourish like the plush trumpet on “Throw Yo Hood Up.” Clocking in around two minutes apiece, there’s nary a wasted moment among the seven forceful tracks; Stogied plays loose with structure, and sounds phenomenal over 80zz’s compositions. “Yeah” flips a surf guitar for a menacing winner, and “Unorthodox Flow” brilliantly exhibits the duo’s lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry.
After lending his mixing and mastering to Loss Prevention and 5 Finger Discount, Futurewave got his turn to produce on the eight-track effort Godz Gift, opting for intricacy as opposed to Morris and 80zz’s thundering productions. Though only separated from its predecessors by a few weeks, Godz Gift shows a marked progression: “Just Trap” is a shimmering statement of purpose, and Stogied shows off his narrative writing skills on the twangy “Base Pumpin.” Fahim returns as a guest on two tracks, including the plucky highlight “Soviet Bastard.”
From September 2017, The Theory of ManKind is produced by Los Angeles’s EyeDee, who explores a breadth of sounds over eight tracks. The propulsive “MoneySplash” is anchored by a lively Rhodes organ, and the bright, soulful “Ballin on the Low” makes for a memorable performance. Stogied delves into uncharted territory on the Mobb Deep-inspired “94 to Infinity,” and lets loose on the furious “Recollect Your Thoughts.”
King Stogied: Dump Gawd Edition Part II is an anomaly in Stogied’s catalog, given its producer-by-committee approach: the all-star roster includes California duo DirtyDiggs, Texas’s Wiardon, and Sweden’s K-Sluggah. Fahim turns in an evocative piano-based track on “Ain’t No I in Team,” an early standout, and provides further cues with a well-worn sample on the bittersweet “Find Peace.” The second of DirtyDiggs’s two contributions, “One Queen,” is a frenetic horn-driven number.
2018’s Love Is Cursed is technically a love album, albeit one fully on Heem’s terms—more Thot Breaker than Here, My Dear. Over a suite of digitized instrumentals by veteran Austrian producer Flip, Stogied’s bars are assured even in his most vulnerable, lovesick moments. Heem and guest Kunggfuu shine against a clean wash of keyboards, synths, and crisp drums on opener “Do the Most,” and Stogied employs an ambitious blueprint for the orchestral manifesto “Heaven or Hell.” “Broken” is at once forlorn and affirming, driven by a syrupy sample and rousing chords, and “The Messiah” breaks tempo with an upbeat sax-laced arrangement.
The B-side contains Stogied’s most accomplished work, opening with the gospel-influenced “Lift Em Up,” “Swazy”’s addictive groove, and the exhilarating triumph of “Testify.” Queensbridge veteran Big Twins stops in for “SideBitch,” and the heartbreaking finale “Last Try” realizes the LP’s overarching concept. A showcase of diverse content, seamless execution, and remarkable production, Love Is Cursed is the rapper’s magnum opus to date.
A return to the EP format, June 2018’s Back From the Dead is a five-track affair produced by K-Sluggah. Its late-night vibe is best exemplified by the percolating highlight “Nightcrawler.”
Stogied capped off a landmark 2018 with the Lost Souls LP, produced by Japan’s Wazasnics. The bluesy “Free Game” and breezy “Praise Me” play to both artists’ strengths, with Stogied rhyming entire verses together on the latter, and Wazasnics’s epic drums steal the show on “Problems.” New Yorkers Sauce Heist and FastLife NYC make fulfilling appearances on “Eazy” and “Rappin’ Like a Sport,” respectively. The album culminates with “Just Blaze,” a worthy addition to Atlanta’s flute-rap canon.