[Self-released; May 17]
Durham rapper Defacto Thezpian is known for his fast cadence and his ability to rap-rap. With a discography of four LPs and one EP, he has also collaborated with the best of Durham, from G Yamazawa and Pat Junior to Lil Bob Doe.
Off rip, what stands out most about his latest release, Chicks & Rhymes, Vol. IV, is the crisp production. This is in stark contrast to the not-so-favorable critique his 2016 EP received from INDY contributor Ryan Cocca. Rather than music, the first thirty seconds of the album feature Defacto in conversation, revealing that he sold his car in order to get the project mixed and mastered. This transparent opening sets the tone of urgency, hunger, and commitment.
The twelve-track album features beats from five talented producers who stay in their own lanes but add up to a cohesive sound. The soul-filled sample aesthetic of Ace Dizzy and the mellow, jazzy, bass-heavy sounds of Domeno stand out. The album centers on Defacto’s stories about sex, love, heartbreak, relationship conflicts, and his love of rapping.
On several lengthy interludes, Defacto riskily raps over well-known beats produced by the likes of Timbaland and the Alchemist. On three out of four, he nails it by remaining in the pocket and showing versatility. But “Hold You Down Interlude” falls short with an attempt to use AutoTune stylistically. The synthesized vocal effect complements the female vocals on the track quite well, but altering Defacto’s pitch comes across as trying too hard. In comparison, the AutoTune-free singing he briefly offers on “Nina Mosley” feels more authentic.
Another standout feature that’s minor but has a large impact is Defacto’s well-composed ad libs. On tracks like “calisthenics,” “bigfax,” and “Lavar Ball,” the ad libs showcase his creativity and professionalism, playing with the tone of his voice and giving off high energy. If you could once argue that Defacto was a promising MC in need of better beats, now, he’s a good MC who has them.
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