“I don’t ghost/ I evaporate”
Who: AJ Suede
What: Fragments, Abstract Hip-hop
Where: Seattle, Washington
Why: As it goes on, the same is the same. An artist with a voice larger than ours will speak the words we’ve been passing around for awhile and then suddenly, almost overnight, they were his words all along. Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs is an artistic statement of immense heft, and I won’t ever lament that it found such a large audience, but I will always try to remember in the years that will come, that there were stories before this one. That people like MIKE, King Carter, Navy Blue, and Mal Devisa had been cooking up this new futuristic lo-fi punk jazz-rap aesthetic for years in the boroughs of the city that never sleeps. Or that from across the country, in the spatial isolation of Seattle, people like Aj Suede had been orbiting a variation of this new sound for years. A highly overlooked figure, one absent from the conversation that’s obviously about him and his work. A conversation that seems to confront the very idea of what hip-hop is and can be. Is there anything we need more than a minute loop, a kick, and some bars?
Perhaps it’s the lack of New York’s dissociative effect, but Aj Suede’s take on lo-fi, brutish and simplistic jazz rap has a more immediately pleasurable quality to it. The way his flow rides in the pocket, even as the beats seem to melt and collapse across the songs’ short 2 minute run-times (if even that). The emotional distance and evocation of classic hip-hop remain, along with the dives into the dark and the misery which seem to slip away as you reach in. Intangible in their intricate wordplay nests, hiding easy meaning behind poetic device. Aj Suede however, with all his access to beaches unmarred by New Jersey trash, has a never ending positivity which bubbles up in the depths. The beats’ simplicity and incessant looping emphasizes their pleasurable effects instead of MIKE or Earl’s loop emphasized suicidal deposition.
Aj Suede presents himself as the poptivist, open to having his music break records or sell itself to the hip-hop illiterate class, even as he challenges the very norms of what hip-hop is, in the same extreme way that so many are doing across the country. His latest populist thesis? Darth Sueder III.