In August, one-half of the Durham electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso—Nick Sanborn, or Made of Oak—shared a bill at Kings with Chapel Hill rapper Well$. Since that night, rumors that the two were exploring collaborations have abounded. For Well$, that meant an invaluable opportunity to rethink and recalibrate his solo direction; for Made of Oak, it meant a new opportunity to garnish some of his own untapped hip-hop sensibilities with one of the area’s most fueled-up rap artists.

Just a week ahead of the release of his solo debut, Penumbra, Sanborn has at last made a foray into hip-hop with the video for “Side Rides” via SPIN. The clip features Well$ and Durham rapper Toon as guest emcees—even though they are oddly, entrancingly silent.

Directed by Endless Endless, the Durham-based creative team of Adam and Sara Padgett Heathcott (who also run the label Hometapes), the video is shot in the vein of a silent film. It follows Toon and Well$ into a makeshift video shoot inside of warehouse, where the two go wild to a backtrack of their own vocals. At first, the idea seemed slightly wacky to Toon. Then, as he recently said in a phone interview with the INDY on his way to Asheville to perform with Lil Dicky, a lightbulb went off in his head. He thought that the concept was genius.

“I fucking loved the idea,” he said. “Especially if I murked the verse, everybody will wanna know what the fuck I’m saying. We live in Durham where everything is quirky as hell. This is some quirky shit. No one has ever done a silent rap video before.”

While there are future plans to rerelease the song with its accompanying lyrics, Made of Oak’s decision to mute vocals gives “Side Rides” the space it needs to tinker its way through its hard, interior bassline. And when we finally hear the complete song, it’ll mark the next stage in the ongoing self-discoveries of Well$, Toon and Made of Oak himself.

YouTube video