by Nick Hanover
There’s a pretty intriguing dark hip-hop scene building up in Seattle right now, centered around acts like Blue Sky Black Death, the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness Nacho Picasso and the fledgling UDF crew. It’s not surprising that a city known for rain and suicides is the home to some bleak, menacing hip-hop but what is surprising is that AnnaLove and Cory Kendrix’s new collaborative EP has more in common with that dark PNW scene than anything Kendrix’s LNS Crew partners are up to.
A lot of the credit for that goes to AnnaLove, who is freshly graduated from the Red Bull Music Academy and works in a style similar to Timbaland’s late ’90s output if it was paired with The Knife’s taste in synth pads. Lead single “Wax On” really brings the Timbaland influence to the forefront, with Kendrix utilizing a distinctly Timbaland-like megaphone vocal filter while one of the song’s hooks comes from a chirpy “whoop-whoop” sound in the background. The song is a party track that mimics the sluggish feel of a night of chemical intake, fun until the regrets and confusion set in. It’s followed by “Pull Up,” which is equally sluggish in tempo but more futurist in construction, with a vocoder vocal opening it up before a clearer Kendrix verse kicks in. Love is a fan of hypnotic low end, and she has a knack for pairing subwoofer destroying bass with percussion that stays out of the way and sticks to the higher registers. The drums are mostly hi-hats, sticks and other clackety sounds, and the snare beats are used less for emphasis than fleshing out the mid-range.
That percussive flare is clearer on “Worth Something,” where a more snare-oriented beat by Love is given an added boost courtesy of a group vocal by Austin sirens Keeper. Love makes the curious decision to turn Keeper’s contribution more robotic than organic, running them through some lo-fi filters and utilizing their voices as another synth pad to add texture to the track, hidden behind Kendrix’s hook on the chorus. The breakdown goes full lo-fi, with the beat glitching out as Keeper’s beautiful, ghostly wailing is teasingly kept just below the top of the mix. It’s a bold move on Love’s part and while it’s initially disorienting to have those beautiful voices chained up, it’s right in line with the track’s theme of fighting to be heard. Fittingly, “Worth Something” features Kendrix at his most ferocious, operating at a nimble pace rather than the more deliberately paced delivery of the preceding tracks.
The EP comes full circle with “Hood Rat,” a mirror version of opener “Wax On.” The beat is more Kenoe than Timbaland, but it’s got a synth mimicking a whistle for the hook and Kendrix does a call-and-response verse with himself. With its “Get down, girl/Shake that ass” chorus and the trap beat, “Hood Rat” is custom built for the club but has enough going on to keep it on repeat during the car ride home, too. At just four songs and a remix, Worth Something is a big tease of a release, but it leaves you hoping for more collaborations between Love and Kendrix as well as for the presence of Love’s production on more LNS material. Who knows, maybe Kendrix, a former Oregonian, can reach out to some of those dark PNW acts and get them in on the fun, too.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover