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Wiki & Navy Blue Are In The Zone – Stereogum

Summary

Once upon a time, virtually every rap album only had one producer. In the ’80s and early ’90s, rappers and producers typically found one another, and then they bunkered up and went to work. The current landscape of emailed beat packs and albums constructed to check certain boxes isn’t necessarily the natural order. That’s a big part of the reason why the recent boom in single-producer rap albums has been so great. In the best of those albums, rappers and producers lock in on an a…….

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Once upon a time, virtually every rap album only had one producer. In the ’80s and early ’90s, rappers and producers typically found one another, and then they bunkered up and went to work. The current landscape of emailed beat packs and albums constructed to check certain boxes isn’t necessarily the natural order. That’s a big part of the reason why the recent boom in single-producer rap albums has been so great. In the best of those albums, rappers and producers lock in on an aesthetic and then explore that vibe. (Some producers are better at developing that vibe than others. It’s not exactly a surprise that Haram and Bo Jackson, two of 2021’s best album, both share the same producer.) Too often, though, rapper/producer collaborations can feel a bit like idle wheel-spinning experiments — exercises to fill time. I was afraid that Wiki and Navy Blue’s new album would turn out like this. I shouldn’t have worried.

You could understand why I might be worried. Wiki and Navy Blue both make a lot of music. Navy Blue is Sage Elsesser, a California-born pro skateboarder and model who was childhood friends with Earl Sweatshirt. For his first few years writing and producing, Elsesser kept his identity secret. Eventually, he eased into a role as part of a sort of insular, thoughtful lo-fi rap intelligentsia. Last year, Elsesser released two Navy Blue albums, Àdá Irin and Song Of Sage: Post Panic! A few months ago, he released another one, Navy’s Reprise. Navy Blue also produced all of AKAI SOLO’s recent album True Sky. The New York rapper Wiki, meanwhile, has been in the game for nearly a decade, first as a member of Ratking an then as a solo artist. Earlier this summer, Wiki got together with producer NAH to release the strange, experimental album Telephonebooth.

I like all of those projects, but still, you can’t miss someone who never goes away. Elsesser has spoken of his admiration for Ka, the monastic Brooklyn rapper whose albums are quiet masterworks of layered allusion and mythology. But Ka has never been a constant presence on the landscape. He arrives, throws another dazzling new album out into the world, and then disappears. For those of us who are part of his cult, whenever Ka does anything, it’s an event. Sage Elsesser has worked hard to build his own aesthetic, much as Ka did, but he doesn’t have that sense of gravity or restraint. (Really, nobody does.) A lot of Elsesser’s music is moody and internal enough that I have trouble locking in on it. It feels like it’s keeping me at arm’s length.

Wiki, on the other hand, has never kept anyone at arm’s length. He’s an open book. Wiki practically grew up in public, dropping out of high school when Ratking signed with XL and acting as an emissary for a whole New York skate-rat culture. …….

Source: https://www.stereogum.com/2162297/wiki-navy-blue-half-god-review/columns/status-aint-hood/