Lushlife is a rapper/producer from Philadelphia, and Ritualize is his latest full length project. He has been actively releasing music since 2005, and has developed somewhat of a cult status with a series of well received projects. This latest LP is a collaboration with electronic trio CSLSX, which pushes his sound left of centre, and allows for a forward thinking, progressive sound to be explored on this twelve track effort, which is released through the formidable Western Vinyl label.
Opening with “Total Mutual Feeling“, Lushlife showcases his smooth flow and decisive tone over a textured, layered and soulful production; the full sound gives the Philadelphia MC an opportunity to spit with passion and intensity, which he grabs with both hands. This is an opening cut that instantly lets you know what this unique, diverse and so obviously talented lyricist is all about; he matches a real hip-hop authenticity with commercial appeal through fusing a raw, charismatic vocal performance with an emotive musical backdrop.
Lushlife has a knack for transforming chaotic instrumentals into powerful hip-hop driven cuts, and the second track “The Waking World” shows why he stands out from his peers; the rock-influence and the spacious, ethereal production is executed really well. The track features Swedish duo I Break Horses; not a collaboration your normal rapper would orchestrate, although Lushlife is far from your everyday MC.
“Incantation” is a standout, with a raw, energetic and emotional performance from Lushlife, with Deniro Farrar assisting, with intelligence, grit and depth, as he kills his verse. Farrar finds a perfect balance between a believable, street-smart approach and introspective, personal musings, showing exactly why the North Carolina MC has developed such a stellar reputation, with his off-the-wall, unflinching outlook.
Ritualize certainly stands apart from the majority of hip-hop releases; tracks such as “Body Double” are excellent examples of Lushlife’s forward-thinking creative output; the intense, electronic soundscape is an inventive resource, and the Philly spitter has an uncanny ability to sound convincing and perfectly suited to a wide variety of styles and moods. Some musicians try their hand at many different styles and leave you wishing they’d just worked out which is their best fit and stuck to it, but Lushlife’s experimentation is key to his winning formula.
Legendary Philadelphia rapper Freeway makes an appearance on the cool, classy “Strawberry Mansion”; the leftfield, electronic production isn’t what you’d normally expect the veteran MC to appear on, but he delivers a characteristically savage, charismatic verse over the hard-hitting drums and emotive synth lines.
“This Ecstatic Cult” takes a more traditional route, with glossy production and punchy percussion backing Lushlife as he spits with personality and character; he brings an encapsulating presence to the track each time he touches the microphone, and on this cut he recruits Killer Mike to make an appearance.
The Run The Jewels MC demonstrates his world-renowned authority, and his decisive tone blesses the sleek and shimmery instrumental. The Ritualize LP closes out with the title-track, which is a sophisticated, passionate track with clear crossover appeal, all whilst Lushlife retains his longstanding integrity. The sound that runs throughout the album is balanced, encapsulating and skilfully executed, and it certainly finishes on a high with this track.
With some high profile guest appearances recruited for the Ritualize album, Lushlife has definitely climbed a few rungs on the ladder, and he matches that notoriety with refined results on this LP. A diverse, yet cohesive, soundscape is delivered professionally throughout, and the unique, innovative sounds found on the project make for an exciting, pleasurable experience. This is undoubtedly one I’ll be revisiting again and again, and you should too.
Purchase Lushlife’s Ritualize album on iTunes here.
Words by Sam Bennett