08 September 2020 (released)
21 October 2020
A few years back, a playlist of chill instrumental hip hop tracks rose to be one of the most listened-to playlists on the internet. The playlist took on a life of its own because of the universality of not having a particular lyrical style or over-sized ego to draw dividing lines and the zen-like state that you can slip into when you're lost in it. It became a favourite of students while studying, good for de-escalating your temper on the drive home, perfect for relaxed weekend afternoons. It became this ubiquitous soundtrack to calm the nerves of city life. Great instrumental music is a tonic for a stress-addled mind.
Brooklyn producer Da'Vinci has released a tight four-track EP of predominantly instrumental hip hop that scratches that same itch. He takes the rolling beats of J'Dilla, the trance-like nature of Bonobo, and a touch of the modern theatrics of Flying Lotus and blends them together to craft a sound that soothes but also keeps the mind alive and active. The EP is short, 8 minutes and 25 seconds. Just enough to get a quick taste. Put on repeat you can start to really sink into it. Many sections could easily be seized upon by MCs to cut up and spit bars over.
Nebulous and airy, 'Thisside' opens slow and steady. Classic drum machine hits, ethereal pads, and casual but insistent synths. On 'Heatnup' a warbling vibrato guitar gives a warm Cali vibe as round electric piano underscores the sparse effected vocals. 'Skyhai' touches on some stereotypical pitched up 'cutesy' vocals, a staple of pop production these days. The bass is laid back and chillin' while the beat stays sparse but locks it down. This track could easily get snatched up by any number of rappers. The 'Getdown' wraps the EP up with a cyclic arpeggio and chirping synths.
Stardust is a solid entry but it's hard to ignore the short run time. It almost seems as if it was released just as bait for potential sampling. The great thing about instrumental hip hop is that you can hang on a section for a while cause the listener isn't constantly straining to hear what line is next. It's a more passive experience. Once Da'Vinci finds his groove and stretches himself more, a lot of kids could be throwing him on around finals.