Local hip-hop scenes are generally pretty niche communities, and the Triangle hip-hop scene seems even smaller than most.

It’s rare, then, that someone comes out of nowhere. But one such surprise in the past year has been the ascent of Raleigh producer and emcee P.A.T. Junior, whose steady flow of songs, videos, and local appearances has made him a nearly impossible name to miss.

Junior stands out because his brand of hip-hop is not easily categorized. It’s not breezy Southern boom-bap, nor is it gangsta street tales or entitled suburban posing. Though he sports a calm, friendly demeanor in person, many of his songs are head-first dives into deep and dark territory, reminiscent of the way an exuberant young Lupe Fiasco hit us with brooding tracks like “Kick, Push II,” “Put You On Game,” and “The Die.” Songs like “Employee of the Year” and “Blackest Bird” from Junior’s new Test Out These Records EP truly feel at times like a descent into a bottomless abyss, hip-hop that isn’t just underground but underworld. And even when the music itself takes a softer turn, as on “Soulace Abuse,” the material stays razor sharp: “She said she’s sick of being sober/Reality’s a leash and it keeps pulling the choker.”

If Fiasco is a fair model for P.A.T.’s sound and direction, the emcee and producer has already tackled the hardest part—tapping into the complex human themes that made Fiasco extraordinary. Now, his task is rounding out a full range of offerings — finding the “Kick, Push” to his “The Cool,” the “I Gotcha” to his “Hello/Goodbye.”

Test Out These Records
is more than enough to get our attention. Now what will P.A.T. Junior do with it?

Stream Test Out These Records for free for the next 48 hours below.