“Darius, you cool with us,” two tiny voices intone at the outset of “Great Job!,” which appears midway through Darius Lusher, the latest longplayer from (and latest pseudonym for) local outsider emcee Karmessiah. But the rapper tuts — “Like I need approval.”
Though Karmessiah largely operates outside of a need for validation — and the more traditional mores of Columbia’s hip-hop scene — he certainly doesn’t want for it. Following three well-received releases, Darius finds Karmessiah making mostly subtle tweaks to his dynamic and provocative lo-fi rap.
Darius’ beats match the techno-lush psychedelics of Karm’s previous backing beds. Sometimes caustically spartan (the tinny “Nigiri Gang”) and other times sensually vibrant (the verdant “Companionship”), the new album sounds a little more hi-fi than Karm’s earlier releases, and while it can’t be read as a stab at reaching a wider audience, the improvements are understated and cunning. [online copy corrected]
But while the tweaks are subtle, they open up avenues for appreciating Karmessiah’s killer diction. A great rhymer with a keen ear for wordplay, Karm has occasionally gotten lost in his own sonic world. Darius’ tighter beats make Karm’s flow — off-kilter (think: Das Racist’s Heems, or Cadence Weapon) and weird (think: DOOM) — stand out all the more. The sound makes lines like “Atypical rap guy, all I spit is truth / A typical rap guy, all you spit is jewels,” and “I’m strep / Better yet / I’m polio,” feel less idle boasts than conquering philippics.
Karm’s still grimy and lewd, and his sundry eloquence serves as unflinching satire of rap’s underlying misogyny. On the title track, he trades great verses with Giant Jihad, who turns in one of Darius’ best couplets: “Baby, I’m a sizzurp-sipping pimp / like Bun B,” Jihad hollers, sounding a bit like Danny Brown. “I’m a real lady killer / Ted Bundy.”
“How you gonna put me in a box now, bitch? / I’m out it,” Karm boasts on “Great Job!.”
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