Thanks to getting an advance copy of Philadelphia hip-hop artist Lushlife
's brand new album Plateau Vision
, which arrived in Amoeba yesterday in both CD and vinyl formats, I have had the opportunity to really listen repeatedly to it and can confidently predict, only a third of the way into the year, that it will be making my Top Five best-of 2012 list. It's that good! It's also something that the super-talented MC/producer has been working hard on for the past two years: meticulously assembling the richly layered production to deliver a unique hip-hop release that serves up some intelligent, thought-provoking rhymes over a refreshing production backdrop that is accurately described by his label Western Vinyl
(who normally do indie rock, not hip-hop) as such: "Plateau Vision
expertly incubates ‘60s psych eccentricities, and gauzy low-fi production techniques with ’96-era hip-hop swagger." Indeed! That was what first grabbed me about the album: how it had this mid nineties NYC hip-hop feel to it but yet was uniquely new forward feeling too.
When I caught up with the self-described "bedroom composer" a few days ago, fresh back from doing shows in Massachusetts and Canada with the likes of Shabazz Palaces,
he agreed that his production at times evokes that aforementioned mid-nineties hip-hop feel. "That's a fabric of what I do," he readily agreed but insisted that he shouldn't be pigeonholed as "one of those guys that just rehashes jazzy golden era beats. So when you listen to the record I like to think that it kind of emotes that feeling but that it still has something progressive and new about it. But that nineties stuff is the core of me." Born and raised in New Jersey the 30 year old artist, born Raj Haldar and making beats since high school,
settled in South Philly seven years ago after having, "spent time in London and New York." Compared to those two major (and notably more expensive) metropolitan centers Philly was the perfect fit for him as an artist. "I was able to live and breath there [Philapelphia] and not get caught up in just trying to pay the bills," he said echoing the sentiment of many other artists who've happily settled in the city 90 minutes south (with light traffic) of the Big Apple.
While Lushlife has been making music for several years ("I'd been dabbling in a lot of lo-fi and textural sounds in hip-hop," he said) it was only last year that he began to get really noticed. That was when he released straight-to-cassette mixtape No More Golden Days
which, despite it's limited run ("I only pressed 200 copies," he laughed) got noticed by such credible tastemakers as Okayplayer, Stereogum,
and the New York Times
. That all lead to his record deal and the heralded release this week of his debut album. While
Lush ably oversees mic & production duties throughout Plateau Vision
, he also invited some other talents on board including Styles P, Shad, Heems
of Das Racist, Cities Aviv,
and Andrew Cedermark
. Standout album tracks include "Magnolia," Gymnopedie 1.2 (ft. Shad)," "Anthem," and "Big Sur." I asked the artist if his song "Big Sur" was written about the beautiful California coastline area south of Monterey? Yes and no, he replied. "It's all like my imagined sense of Big Sur. But I have never been there," he said with a chuckle adding that, "A lot of the sub context of the stuff on Plateau Vision is kind of imagined America that I have never visited."