Kooley High: Lazy Sunday | ★★★ | [M.E.C.C.A. Records; April 23]

One of hip-hop’s prevailing mid-pandemic trends has been for acts to package small servings of their music, as a placeholder, as the music industry and economy reactivate.

But this just might be the only trend that the locally pioneering, five-man hip-hop crew, Kooley High, has followed over a 15-year career, largely dignified by a casual disregard for whatever music or movements are à la mode at the time.

Led, once again, by emcees Charlie Smarts and Tab-One, Kooley High’s new three-pack EP titled Lazy Sunday is no different.

While this brief offering sounds at home stylistically for Kooley High, it seems as though the aspiration here is to get us to remember when being at home was more of a reference point than a decree. This could explain why three of the four producers on Lazy Sunday were from outside of the Kooley camp. On opener “Hold Up,” Ukrainian producer KLIM raises his boom-bap influences to the occasion, gifting Kooley’s parleyers with a rich rush of twinkling chimes under concise snares and basslines.

TabOne hops spryly from one bar to the next with rhymes of encouragement: “Hold up/ get your fucking goals up/ turn your tv off/ get off your phone and turn your soul up/you know what?/ I bet that’ll be that shit that fill them holes up/ roll up.”

Next, on “Rollin’ in the Hay” they invite producer Eric G. and the ever-ready rhymer GQ—both of whom are Jamla Records labelmates with former Kooley High emcee, Rapsody—to the affair.  Some of the more melodic musings that Charlie Smarts has been toying with over the last several years come to light here over Eric G.’s pictorial-as-usual beat profile, ultimately setting the tone for guest GQ to put on a show-stealing masterclass in wordplay.

If there’s one thing that sticks out on this track listing more than it actually sticks, it’s the guest remix production by Statik Selektah for the title track, which also features Brooklyn vocalist Melanie Charles. Besides Charles’ refreshing vocals, it’s neither much of an ambitions veer from the original Sinopsis-produced song, nor does it highlight the dustiness and grit that Statik Selektah’s reputation as a crate-digging DJ and beatmaker is built on.

It’s quite possibly his most relaxed work behind the boards, but that’s what lazy Sundays and Kooley High have always been about—the luxury to be both unbothered and unmatched.

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