Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Young One
Genre(s): Rap, Underground Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop
Ever-evolving Memphis rapper Cities Aviv launched his career with a series of funky underground releases that could have been lumped in with stuff from Anticon or Def Jux, but on his most high-profile release to date, the Throbbing Gristle-appreciating, self-admitted nerd is willfully caught up in the Childish Gambino/Death Grips/cloud rap whirlwind of 2013-2014. He's got the literal and barking style of Death Grips' MC Stefan Burnett even if he sounds like he was recorded down the hall; he flows and mopes like Gambino without the Hollywood surroundings, and his backing tracks (from Aviv, RPLDGHSTS, and other vanguard producers) are the hazy, crazy, and broken kind of beautiful sounds that go well with Mishka brand hoodies, lucid dreaming, and any off-world activity. Even if that sounds like a derivative pastiche brewed especially for taste-making blogs, Come to Life is an inspired, stick-to-the-bones album that offers a surprising amount of comfort, uplift, and new opportunities.
Already halfway into the 2010s, underground rap has gone through a number of seismic stylistic movements. A term like “cloud rap” that was an early marker for rappers like Kitty, Main Attrakionz, and even A$AP Rocky already feels dated from a bygone era of 2011. “Hipster rap,” a similarly small moment used to describe artists as varied as Theophilus London and Das Racist, was quickly forgotten as rappers fought back against the term or simply reinvented themselves to avoid such genre pigeonholing.
There may not be a rapper as good at intertwining the ongoing Internet age and rap culture as Memphis native Cities Aviv. His newest effort, Come to Life, only confirms this, with beats provided by Aviv himself, B_L_A_C_K_I_E_, RPLD GHSTS, and others, all of which glitch and glide their way through a thoroughly entertaining 15 tracks. “Merge with the void and don’t ever look back,” Aviv said about the mantra of Come to Life, a fitting description of an album that dips into some dark places but comes out on the other end as a worthwhile exploration into the depths of woozy production and New York influences of a heartland-bred rapper.
COME TO LIFE is a meditation on Gavin Mays’ belief in the potential of every individual, regardless of the daily battles they might face. Through Cities Aviv, his ideas are supported by a selection of mostly self-produced beats that encompass mashed-up fusions of sound. Each track pulls on a percussive collage and transposition while providing the tools for venturing into obscure compositional formats.
Cities Aviv – Come to Life (Young One)There’s a haze that hangs over Gavin Mays’ hip-hop. Sometimes it feels like an ode to surface noise, like the woozy phase of a beloved cassette that’s lived too long in the car, stretched and demagnetized but still familiar. Sometime it’s a less deliberate production choice, a matter of getting the samples and rap in place without too much fuss, using reverb to plaster over the joints.