It begins with the static crackle of an old-time sample. A laid back but steady beat and a low, warm keyboard gives the listener a chance to absorb the smooth vibe that they will be immersed in for the duration of a mixtape. Then the voice makes its first appearance. It’s clear, precise. It’s calculated but feels completely natural. It soaks in the sound of that beat, further immersing the listener into an easy groove. In those first few moments, Joey Aich prepares the stage on which he will tell a story of college life. The trance-like hip-hop of College D.egree takes the audience through an insightful representation of the joys and struggles of Joey Aich’s experience at Denison University.
I was first introduced to Joey Aich through a feature he did on sarob.’s noon. mixtape. Having listened to both of these hip-hop artists’ mixtapes, I can clearly see why they make a good combination. Both musicians use smooth, groove-oriented beats that seduce the listener into a steady flow. Both use slight changes in their intonation to give their verses a conversational quality. Both take great pride in their talents as lyricists, using their space to communicate some real meaning rather than the superficial drivel we encounter far too often in mainstream rap. Even with these similarities, Joey Aich and sarob. are rather distinct from each other. Joey Aich has a sharp, cutting quality which brings a lot of energy which is deliberately absent from the backgrounds. Aich’s voice and lyrics sound seem to come from the mind of an active participant in the story-telling process, whereas sarob. strikes me as more of an intent, but passive, observer. As much as I like each of these artists on their own, the tracks in which they join forces are the strongest. Each of their mixtapes features the other musician on one track, and these songs allow each rapper to compliment the other.
College D.egree is a very relatable mixtape for anyone who is trying to find their way in the world, whether they are in school or out trying to find work. Joey Aich explores the difficulties of trying to find a balance between a social life and attempting to achieve something greater. Aich raps about the stress and pressure that rests on his shoulders and the constant temptation to drop a responsibility that feels irrelevant. He discusses college crushes, unfortunate nights featuring too much alcohol, and trying to motivate himself to complete a degree. All of these are challenges that we face daily, making the listener feel like they immediately have some kind of connection with Joey. This, combined with the fact that there isn’t a single moment of insincerity on the mixtape, makes for a very compelling musical project. Any listener could take comfort in Joey Aich’s words, or perhaps find a profound piece of wisdom tucked in there somewhere.
Joey Aich’s College D.egree is another testament to the incredibly nuanced and complex world of underground hip-hop. The entire mixtape is available for free on Joey’s soundcloud, go check it out!