If there is one thing that I admire about hip hop, it is the genre’s ability to play with language so much within such a short amount of time. Since I started actually exploring hip hop, I have been amazed at the amount that an artist is able to say within a single song. Phrases moving at a mile a minute and being bent and rhythmically reworked into any shape allows an incredible amount of freedom for a poet who is willing to take full advantage of such an opportunity. sarob. is one of those poets. His new album, the down., is a testament to the genre. While I thought his debut mixtape, noon., was remarkable, it seems it was only a taste of what sarob. can do with a full album. For any fan of hip hop, the down. is a record not to be missed.
The intro of one track on the album, desiderata., involves a clip in which sarob. explains the need to be genuine in hip hop. If there is one word I would use to describe the down., it’s genuine. sarob.’s rapping is a constant display of emotion from his core. The way his voice can change from laid back and easy-going to a sharp, punctuated acidity within a single track perfectly relates the highs and lows in an album about battling through deeply set depression. sarob. not only bares his soul, he invites the listener to feel with him. The record is an exercise in catharsis in which we witness a man using music as a release in a difficult time.
Beyond the character of sarob.’s voice itself, his wordplay is nothing short of brilliant. A particular favourite moment for me is “victoria.”, one of the heavier tracks on the album. On this track, sarob. digs deeps into his challenges with anxiety and obsessive behaviours, and trying to hide his problems from those around him. He spins those themes around the story of Faust and selling one’s soul for something better, and just when the song seems to have concluded, the beat drops into a sample from D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie”.
Further consolidating the down. as a phenomenal hip hop album, the entire record rides along beautifully smooth beats. These tracks are just dripping with R&B, soul, and jazz, and sarob. is completely dialed in to every variation in the background. His inflections, emotional changes, and pauses fit like a lock and key with every aspect that flows underneath his voice. the down. has a feeling of ambient vastness while also feeling harmonically whole. The slow tempo and resonant nature of the backgrounds are a perfect compliment to sarob.’s voice and lyrics.
the down. is currently available on sarob.’s soundcloud as a free stream. This is an album that everyone should try, even if hip hop is not really your thing. I think anyone could find something to love in sarob.’s music.