The pitch-shifted voices on Arca’s Stretch EPs were undoubtedly sadistic; the fiendish and surreal licks of a tempestuous lyricist cast bullish flavors all over the crisp, polished beats they were wrapped in. This was hip-hop old hat; Esham The Boogeyman has been pushing the boundaries of bad taste and mutant frequencies since the early 90s, but it appeared out of character for the Venezuelan artist, who seemed so driven by the fresh-cut grooves that gave these releases their extra spike. BOY FROOT pulps his rhythms in a similar vein, but instead of waging alien voices against chromatic percussion, the twisted rhymes strewn throughout this animal are rumbled through a curdling beat sauce that squelches and rots across its 71 minutes. This might be his first mixtape to feature vocals, but OH-based producer Jay Harmon has concocted a formula that congeals through headphones like a heap of Spirit vinyls melting in the sun, and it sounds absolutely terrific.
Harmon began by making instrumentals when he was just 16. His tunes mostly comprised of experimental loops and wavering sequences that were hazy accompaniments to YouTube clips of the artist playing with smoke and masks in the forest — that was five years ago. From an outsider’s perspective, those early sessions now resemble some typical online outlet for an unrefined creative mind, altered by narcotic consumption. Drug references remain part of the current persona, but whereas random projects of the past were lacking in direction, Harmon has since begun curating something called Terrordome, a compilation series that features like-minded music makers contributing their latest jams for scheduled monthly releases. When Terrordome was first instigated, Boy Fruit, as the project was initially labelled, started to pick up pace. On LOOTERS, Harmon is joined by his good friend Keiki and his college flat mate, Buzz Wallace. Together, this unassuming and otherwise little-known collective have brought to life an astonishing mutation of hip-hop that tests the depth of transgression in the murkiest waters of beat manipulation.
Dripping with ad-hoc samples and looped echo, the mixtape opens with an instrumental piece; the atmosphere it conjures is thick and grime-ridden, a gloop-smothered gateway into some hash-riddled snuff box of impropriety and prank. The production on LOOTERS makes use of distorted layers, which merge to either build tension, project an idea, or twist a backing track. Such instances are best presented on mixes relying less heavily on the hip-hop vocals that ultimately dominate the release. “SUMTIMEZ THUGZ CRY” embodies clotted percussion fragments and dense rhythmic textures, typical of the surrounding material, while “KEYS 2 CONSCIOUSNESS” is all shattered dream pop loops and damaged synth patterns. The instrumentals are worlds apart in style, but they come fully integrated in the landscape that Harmon creates across his ambitious 27 tracks. However, the most challenging idiosyncrasies are what make this thing so bold, and they appear in the form of a diseased lyrical flow, which bends itself around Harmon’s tarnished aesthetic.
As the stronger rapper in the trio, Keike contributes to a number of LOOTERS’ finest tracks. He also makes instrumentals on the side, a grand batch of which are available on his SoundCloud — access to this dark and spoiled region of the web will no doubt lead you to Apartment Mouth, an outfit that brings Boy Froot and Keiki together on a level playing field. On LOOTERS, Keiki’s lyrics are crude and vulgar, while they remain more inventive than anything else on here. Set in the context of a Twitter feed digest that blurts references across the board in a pitch-shifted and screwed-up discharge, he moves from name dropping actors to swiping at presidents in an ungracious husk that sounds integral to the cuts propelling his ugly spill. The content is often baffled and aggressive; through questionably adopting horrorcore themes, his drive frequently sinks into the feverish tar-pit of Harmon’s wacky stew whenever a rhyme falls flat (bouncing “internet” against “pussy sweat” doesn’t work; the lyrics need submerging in a beat-propelled sludge to have any effect). But BOY FROOT plays Keiki’s flow to his advantage — a skill he has surely nurtured through curating Terrordome — and that helps guide the music through its own stoned packaging. LOOTERS is a damaged ventilation of sorts, which has been executed with equal grip and dexterity in the course of semi-intentional fumbling — it might bare an excellent selection of beats, but it still samples Mike Judge clips and snippets from The Simpsons.
Harmon’s preference for disclosure is incredibly tough to maintain across such a lengthy release, and it does trip over itself once or twice. The curmudgeonly trough of “DOWN HOE” is intrusively at odds with any concentrated production; with its pointless slump into misogyny, the track seems vacuous and flabby on a mix that’s otherwise brooding with promise. If nothing else, it illustrates room for growth in a setting that has already engulfed so much of what mainstream hip-hop has had to offer this year. At the other end of the spectrum, songs such as “NOIDED” and “GOT 2 HAVE U” shimmy and trickle between free-fall synth repetition, making for sensational peaks throughout the tape’s entirety. These are wildly bright highlights that demonstrates Harmon’s tact as a producer, emphasizing his knack for spinning manipulated beat loops through an angle that’s echoed all over; see the slurred thud of “LOOTED” and even the lo-fi strings of “BONUS INFRACTION.”
BOY FROOT plays the length of LOOTERS to his advantage. The music is a drugged-up sprawl of well-crafted and inventive hip-hop that resets the boundaries of home recording. As a debut release under the current moniker, it strengthens the whole Terrordome ethic by demonstrating a tendency for reaching out to like-minded artists and collaboratively accumulating material. There isn’t even talk of a label yet — it’s as grass roots as internet artistry has dared to get — but LOOTERS is an exciting landmark that emphasizes just how young musicians are coming together online to expand a creative vision, vent their frustrations, and dilute personal issues through an engaging medium. BOY FROOT and Terrordome are representing a very specific approach, and it’s all available to witness at the click of a button — all you have to do is name your price.