The camaraderie between the rapper and the DJ is the most vital element of hip hop. The syncopation between the lyrics and beats can separate what’s awesome from what’s whack.

With an experimental vision, Boston hip hop artist Cliff Notez and Somerville, MA-based producer Dephrase mirror that classic partnership in their new Social Absence EP.

There’s a sonic array of tones present from start to finish with Notez’s conscious delivery having a major presence. Fellow Bostononian Latrell James also lends his talents on one of the tracks. 

The three-song project came together through the bond of friendship that Notez, James, and Dephrase have. It was made through Union Sound in Somerville in socially distanced fashion because of COVID-19, hence where the title of the EP gets its name.

“It’s always dope to do dope stuff with your dope friends,” Notez says on the making of the record. “It feels natural, and it doesn’t feel like we worked on it for as long as we did. I also have mad respect for Latrell and Dephrase, so it’s always a pleasure.”

“This project feels like a good representation of what can happen when artists embrace distance collaboration,” Dephrase adds. “At no point were any of us in the room together while working on the EP. Latrell and Cliff are incredible people and artists who really know how to bless a beat.”

“Voodoo Doll” has a bit of an R & B vibe due to the singing that takes place while also having a distorted, avant-garde style that’s reminiscent of Flying Lotus. James is featured on the track, which is where the audial variety comes from. A great example of Notez’s stream-of-consciousness delivery is in “Spiral.” The song takes you through a mental tornado that dives into the craziness the mind can bring during these uncertain times. Life can get monotonous, which is what “Repeat” examines over a flowing beat that incorporates various samples.

The state of hip hop is a divisive debate these days, with a lot of the new-school hating on the old school while the cats from the latter era are opinionated about what the young talents are bringing to the table. Notez and Dephrase shed all of that nonsense by combining their skills into a cool record that pushes the art form forward. 

Photo by Nick Surette

Preorder the album here. 

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