Weird is the new normal in hip hop, and we would all do well to celebrate this new epoch of unorthodoxy. Whether it’s Open Mike dropping bars about coping with divorce while binging episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris norm-core mugging their way through the promotion of the couple’s collaborative record Everything’s Fine, or whatever wild apertures into the unknown Deathbomb Arc is currently in the process of opening, it’s an exciting and strange time to be a hip-hop head.
Chicago’s Sooper Records have certainly done their part to stoke the genre’s revolt against the conventional, releasing label-owner NNAMDI’s spectacular and surreal Brat in early 2020 and now following it up with another impressive oddity, Luke Titus’s Plasma.
Luke Titus’s career is by no means a conventional one, and even though it makes for a good story, I’m not going to recount it here (literally everyone else who has written about this album has the same into, seriously, just Google any other article about this album and you’ll be slapped with the same story beats).
I’m instead in reserving space for a discussion of Luke’s debut Plasma, because it’s worth discussing, and as baffling as his back story is, his new album is just that much more interesting.
The Plasma begins with a blast of breakbeat spiritualism in the form of “Air,” a collaboration with Sooper Records co-owner Sen Morimoto, which borrows equally from the accommodating tones of Roy Ayers’ compositions and the bucking funk of Thundercat and serves as a superb introduction to the jittery smooth energy of the album on the whole.
The next track, “Soft Serve,” somehow layers sharp falsetto cascades, blustery free-jazz percussion, and a mathcore bass skitter into a creamy layer cake that is as buttery as anything Bill Withers ever committed to tape. The Thundercat influence comes clawing back with the popping prattle and leer of “Gold”‘s buzzy, brash-but-bashful R’n’ B glitter and glaze, while the following track, “Today,” featuring Ravyn Lenae, is reminiscent of the poignant, bedroom bop of Noname while giving a wide breadth to a drunken, punch-prone, neo-soul beat.
“Retrograde” happily wallows in bursting fountains of fusion-soul synths as they flow over and seep into the melodies and beats as if they were submerged in a bathtub full of champaign and blond hair dye. “Mysticals” has a dirty, sopping wet, southern rap vibe, feeling like an Outkast outtake from the Speakerboxxx side of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. “I’ll Be Here” has some wonderfully warm, blown-out beats and is a spectacularly soft follow up to the wistful, gospel gut-check “I’ve Tried.”
Let the warm, gooey goodness of Plasma seep into your ears today by smashing play on the Bandcamp player below: