In a deconstructionist era, when every text is deadlocked by ancillary meaning, is it acceptable to throw on a Def Leppard record for the simple, visceral purpose of rocking the fuck out? Is it cool that I want Lil’ Jon to get me crunk to the point of self-abandonment and celebratory violence without that act being dissected for purpose within the larger urban community? The point being, intelligence should not be used as an excuse to deprive oneself of pleasure. Conversely, we as informed music fans/critics are never beyond the pressure of feeling the need to dig “highbrow” media because it happens to be endorsed by smart people. Whether it’s toiling through a David Foster Wallace novel, attempting academic interpretations of Lynchian macabre, or pretending to fathom a Shabazz Palaces’ song title, we’ve all been guilty of posturing on certain levels for certain products just to maintain our reps.
Thankfully, Lushlife’s music is cultured enough to enliven the post-grads and flat-out ill enough to snap the most loyal of necks, effectively earning him a spot in that perfect hip-hop purgatory of poetic edutainment often visited by the likes of Rakim, Nas, Black Thought, Edan, and Blu. To understand the multiplicity of Lush’s appeal, you need only peep a list of references that appear on Plateau Vision: Wise Intelligent, Manifest Destiny, BDP, Wounded Knee, Dilla, Joy Division, Pink Floyd, BBC, Beat Street, Marley Marl, Sufi mystics, Hodgy Beats, shoegaze, MOP, Johnny Rotten, Halley’s Comet, Lord of the Flies, Coltrane, etc… Yet as random as this list may seem, it’s not a Game-type name fest, more an honest revealing of the many sources Lush plucks for inspiration while navigating today’s hyper-literate stratosphere. Raj Haldar isn’t necessarily trying to prove anything (beyond perhaps his ability to craft an amazing fucking album), but when smart people make art the product tends to be thought provoking.
To put Plateau Vision into perspective; it’s one of those rare records that keeps me awake at night. Atmospherically it’s haunting, but pleasingly so. Beyond that, it’s almost impossibly well balanced and cohesive. The 11 tracks blend seamlessly and all represent sonic progression while honoring hip-hop’s boom bap bone structure. For every nod to Premo’s drums (“Magnolia”) or Large Professor’s horns (“Anthem”), we’re greeted by raw, tribal minimalism (“Hale Bopp was the Bedouins” feat. Heems) or sampled video games and digitally affected refrains (“Still I Hear the Word Progress” feat. Styles P). In a recent interview with the Philadelphia City Paper, Lush described his sound as “this imagined intersection of 60’s psych, golden-era hip-hop and lo-fi experimentation.”
And that’s just the beats. Lush’s mic game is tighter than a lesbian duck. As smart as he may come off, the kid’s never far from South Philly and he sounds just as authentic rhyming about blowing kush, ciphering in a bubble Goose as he does reading Henry James on the beach in Big Sur. At times it’s hard not to hear Nas, but while Lush may pay occasional homage in the way of flow (even voice to some degree), his trajectory is rather unique – “This is coke rap, but sprinkled with the right emotion.” I could go on ad nauseum about the nuances of this album, but I’d rather state it simply: Lushlife’s Plateau Vision is arguably the best rap record since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. So buy the album when he drops it.
- Jeff Artist