Night clings to a fluorescent fog, thick and sweetly tobacco-tasting outside club Dread, where the DJ inside is spinning cut-ups of the jazz band across the street and a young, waif-ish girl mutters about something on the stage. “Lost in a dream,” she might have been saying, but it’s indistinct and so casually tossed to the crowd it almost seems like, for her, a common occurrence.
The DJ’s name is Ohbliv, and he’s another in a wave of backwards-looking, post-digital hip-hop producers (among them: Contact Lens, Mattron) who’ve taken to VHS tapes, elevator synthesizers, and decaying smears of 80s pop samples to construct the hypnotic, cerebral beats that leak into the streets from these seedy clubs. Ohbliv’s latest beat tape, Spirit Daps, is an interesting example of a growing trend within the internet underground, where beat-makers are foregoing dramatic stomp- and radio-ready trap drums for a more strung-out sound. On “lost” — among others from the tape — pieces of R&B, elevator jazz, and Casio keyboards feature as complacently pleasant, repetitive loops. The drums have an off-kilter laziness that nicely complements the imaginary MC I have rhyming along in my head. His voice is thick like molasses.
It appears that there’s more to Ohbliv’s production than mere beats, though. After absorbing more of his music, I began to notice that he’s actively constructed an archive — a symbol of African and African-American culture: He releases music on cassettes (a nostalgic nod to his hip-hop predecessors who dubbed their own), and his Tumblr page (The Black Love Series) is full of images of black life and culture. There’s a much deeper meaning to his music, existing perhaps as a revisitation to a different era, chopped and screwed into delightful, swinging portions. It’s no longer so out of place. Ohbliv repurposes his samples to emulate something that, for better or for worse, has become lost in a dream.
• Ohbliv: http://ohbliv.bandcamp.com