Know Your Product
Rapdragons: Natural Born Chillers
Published: March 16, 2011
Natural Born Chillers
First off, note that chillwave isn’t the first subgenre of music to come into existence at least in some part as a punchline, a genre tag that makes fun of genre tags and gives the sort of people boring enough to be amused at Hipster Runoff something else at which to giggle. Self-awareness in indie music has been around a bit longer than that. But, punchline or not, “chillwave” still denotes a fairly specific thing that has been in vast abundance for the past few years and, if there’s any justice, will be remembered as the mushy hipster easy-listening music it is, the sonic signifier of boat shoes and aloof self-seriousness. It sounds like privilege.
In sound and spirit, chillwave is basically the opposite of punk and, arguably, rap. As such, centering a rap mixtape/EP on the sound’s bigger proprietors—Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi, Small Black—as the Rapdragons duo does here feels nicely subversive. And, hey, it generally works and probably isn’t all that weird an aesthetic clash. Rap has danced enough with R&B such that the smooth grooves of Panda Bear aren’t all that disconnected from the slightly faded, laid-back rhymes of Nick Often and Greg Ward.
At the very least, Rapdragons appear to be doing this with some self-awareness: After declaring “Yo, I like my beats lo-fi,” the duo tosses out the warning on the six-minute half-spoken-word “Win Some:” “You know I like chillin’, but we need to be more.” The tone throughout the record is more a mix of melancholy—“most days I wake up, wish I was still asleep/ ’cause I ain’t even hit the road and I’m feeling beat,” from the title track—and checked-out blunted.
It’s on “Natural Born Chillers” that the best-working beat winds up being from the comparatively unknown local Moss of Aura, which delivers a room-filling synth anthem that boosts Rapdragons’ two MCs up until they’re almost rap-shouting. And Ward resolves that feeling down like so: “I say fuck it/ today is a new day/ today is get-through day/ today is dreams true day/ today is get up and get blazed with your crew day.” More than anything, Rapdragons sound really honest when they rhyme: no fronting, just dudes. It feels good.
For more information visit rapdragons.ltdcomp.com.
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