We’ve seen it time and time again: Hip hop artists who get a little bit older, grow more and more frustrated by the lack of inspiration they’re getting from the genre, and then decide to go a bit left-of-center on a new project that indulges in sounds and vibes a little less rap “traditional”. It’s how we get things like Snoop Lion.
With an extensive catalog boasting a decade-long run of solo releases and group projects with acts Sandpeople, The Prime and Debaser in his back pocket, longtime Portland undie-hip hop fixture emcee/ producer Sapient has apparently reached that point, his forthcoming 2013 release Slump finding him intriguingly testing out his singing chops in musical terrains of a more indie pop-rock vein.
By the sounds of preview teasers “Seeking New Skin” and “Shotgun In My Spaceship”, the stylistic shift ends up being a comfy fit for Sapient with the potential to blow up something major in the coming months, thanks to the effortless transitioning of his punchy, hip hop-informed lyrical wit to harmony-laden vocal imprints ripe with earworm-y melodies as complex arrangements billow around him in delightfully quirky ways.
“Seeking New Skin” might be sprinkled with some dark imagery (“These razorblades seeking new skin/ Ouch you’re bleeding…”), but it never leans too deep in the realm of the dreary, actually going the opposite route as it bridges sunny acoustic guitar noodling, goofy falsetto ad-libs, gleaming blasts of electro crunch and bouncy piano-pop verses lined with a cheery doo-wop-meets-Weezer sensibility.
Meanwhile the whimsical “Spaceship” utilizes a perky piano bop, soaring power pop moves and bits of classical decoration to frame a love tale colorfully illustrated with astronaut-pimp mack lines (“I’ll show you the structures of the moon/ If you’ll ride shotgun in my spaceship”) that slyly disguise Sapient’s slightly less self-assured internal dialogue (“You got me all sideways and upside down/ Now that I’m in orbit, you’ll think I’m important and love my style”).