Tag Archives: Zeroh

Hidden Gems: Zeroh, “0 EMISSIONS 2”

ZerohIn our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Zeroh’s greatest asset over the past 10 years has been his unique rapping style. He has a whirlwind of complex rhyme schemes that bleed from one bar into the next, with sudden explosions of vocal melody appearing without warning. His flow is marked by gymnastic patterns of syllables, the kind that require skill, focus, and creativity to execute.

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Artist of the Week: Swarvy’s Multifaceted Blend of Hip-Hop, Jazz, & Soul

Though Mark Sweeney, A.K.A. Swarvy, has released a dozen records through various labels, he doesn’t consider a single one of them to be his debut. Part of this is due to the beatmaker’s exacting nature. Born just outside of Philadelphia, Swarvy is a methodical and precise composer who plays bass, keyboards, drums, and guitar, and stresses in-person collaborations.

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A Walk Through The Avant-Garde World of ‘Art Rap’ Music


Illustrations by Daiana Ruiz

Coined by Chicago native Open Mike Eagle in the early aughts, “art rap” was originally a reactionary phrase, one that responded directly to the subgenre of “art rock” and implied that the standard set of sonic or lyrical conventions did not apply. On another level, it was a way to distinguish his music from the music that fell under broad and nebulous labels like “hip-hop” and “underground rap,” which are sometimes embraced by rappers and listeners who believe that anything that doesn’t explicitly champion “real hip-hop” is, well, you know—the opposite.

“Having studied the history of American pop music and black music, it’s appalling where we are now,” Eagle told L.A. Weekly in 2010. “That’s why I wanted to give my music another term, something to differentiate itself from the pack. You can’t call everything ‘hip-hop.’ I was listening to rock music, and it struck me that a lot of the rock I liked was called ‘art rock.’ I started wondering why they had a genre where they can do whatever the fuck they want to do, and rappers are scorned if they don’t have enough machismo.”

Today, art rap is even a tag on this website. To sum it up (albeit reductively), art rap is avant-garde rap music that is antithetical to terrestrial radio station playlists. (That’s not always the case—records by artists like Kendrick Lamar certainly push the boundaries of rap.) More broadly, the subgenre has some identifying characteristics, including but not limited to: left field, forward-thinking production, unconventional song structures and cadences, songs written from the perspective of fictional characters, explicit and protracted engagement with social and political issues, and absurdist metaphors and similes.

From the description above, it should be clear that labeling a song/album “art rap” does not mean that it’s only that. Nor are any of those characteristics necessarily new. The list of art rap forebears is long, spanning from west coast jazz-rap progenitors Freestyle Fellowship to one-time Def Jukies like El-P, Aesop Rock, and Cannibal Ox. The list below features 12 rappers whose output—either recent or career-long—meets some of the above criteria. Most, if not all of them, have worked with at least one other rapper on the list in some capacity. This overlap was not intentional, but its existence affirms the artists’ aesthetic kinship, the reality that art rap has always been and will continue to flourish.

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The Best New Hip-Hop On Bandcamp

Best New Hip Hop

This month’s roundup of fresh new rap releases includes forward-thinking instrumental beatscapes, throwbacks to the rugged Wu-Tang Forever era, and a three-part hip-hop treatise on black history. Consider these projects the inaugural guiding lights for your musical journey through the uncertain and choppy waters of 2017. 

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