Raised South Side Jamaica, Queens, 22 year old RAF is from Guatemalan descent. Part of an NYC music collective known as LOCALS, and has been working on his craft since the tender age of 16. His debut EP project is entitled “Directed By Raf”. A straight shooting rapper and an eccentric music maker is a captivating combo for any artist to be. The general vibe RAF brings, is defiant, gritty, and nostalgic, fitting the back-to-basics spirit of a proud lyricist linking with inventive creativity. The EP is palpably urgent, unhinged, and not tied to any particular time, style or mood.
The EP opens with “Warm Welcome” ft. Local Kid Zeus, and right from the get-go, we get a taste of RAF’s abrasive and impacting delivery. The resonating keyboard riff is stretched, and splashed with tonal effects that balance on top of the skittering hi-hats and bass beat.
“Carnival” ft. R.I.S.H, flows in on an ear-catching and soulful melody. RAF’s rapping is just as capricious. Bouncy and nimble, he regularly switches cadence, to accent key images, while the second half of the song is exotically flavored.
“Sponsor’s Word” comes in quietly, and steadily builds its momentum towards a lyrical apex, while “W2 My Dead” concentrates RAF’s high energy delivery into an even more potent punch, and the result is a knockout. The beat crackles with intensity and becomes an integral part of an already booming rhythm section, as RAF rhymes with a swaggering gravitas and a precision unmatched.
Two things that are never in doubt throughout the recording are RAF’s skill for combining amorphous instrumental textures with hard snapping drums and the rapper’s ability to dominate any beat he lays his rhymes on.
RAF, who sounds like an expert in flows and rhythms, cements each song with his undaunted, steamrolling performances, which surprisingly, offer an illusion of effortlessness. The finished product plays out like an action-packed movie, which is most evident on “Malice in NY” ft. Local Kid Zeus. “You (Interlude)” also proves that RAF has an ear for catchy pop melodies, and the pipes to croon mellifluous tunes.
On “Grace” ft. Mei Nine, the female vocals and the slow-burning beat, twist around each other powerfully. RAF comes in, snarling his hard-nosed rhymes, and bending around the beat to make a poetic, poignant body of work.
The pacing, detail and craft are overwhelming, as RAF thrives, finding pockets of downtempo rhythm to ride over that few rappers could. Here the artistry is fueled by raw passion. RAF’s writing is full of uncompromising details and he has a flair for building vivid imagery.
Practicing focused, soul-searching lyricism, grinding away at his craft, and surrounding himself with strong musical companions, RAF seems to have made his initial moves in the right direction on “Directed By Raf”. A refocusing of the genre’s path, is often a necessary progression. RAF pushes boundaries with unique perspectives and approaches to music. These innovations prove hip-hop is alive and well.
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