Rafztar: “The Past” – there is innovation and illumination here!

“The Past” is 19 track Hip-hop album produced by UK based unsigned producer Rafztar. This his third album features, Teddy Bennington, New5ense, Sunshine De Harzi, Micah Byrnes, Kamal Imani, and Searz & Capricorn. The full-length collaboration between the 21st-century producer and a bunch of rappers and singers lulls breezily between pro forma thuggery and electronic insights, mixing progressive beats with grizzled street raps. But though this is well-trod ground, there is innovation and illumination here, too. This is probably Rafztar’s best full album production work since and he thrills with his full layered orchestration and eclectic beats.

Rafztar never stays in one place, but he makes it all sound so smooth. With these fantastically diversified beats, the guests flourish. Micah Byrnes gives a high-octane performance on “Murder”. Capricorn & Teddy Bennington brings extra menace to the already atmospheric “The Truth”.

New5ense’s laidback ode gives levity to “Find A Way”.  Kamal Imani shows up on the ever hungry and dark soundscape of “Exceptional”. Sunshine De Harzi adds edgy pizzazz to the head nodding “Jaws”.

 The instrumental beats that follow, like standouts, “The Lost Beach”, “Jordan”, “Fee Fi Fo Fum” or “More Sins” don’t necessarily follow any sequence structure making the entire joint amenable to shuffle, which makes it great mp3-player set for digital consumers.

Of course if you’re a rapper, you try your flow over these. Especially the eclectic “One Wish” and the slow-burner “Sanaya”. The message is clear and simple, when listening to this mixtape. Never underestimate the power of hip-hop, as it comes in all shapes and sizes.

The nature of the majority of Rafztar’s beats make the total work easy to listen to and are a compliment to the guest rappers’ lyrical prowess. The construction of his beats and songs is also noteworthy, and the work on “Bound” Ft Micah Byrnes SkyNet Mix, is impressive.

All of Rafztar’s beats, even the faster-paced ones, are smooth and interesting and are definitely a main component of what makes this recording an enjoyable experience. In fact, the album is a great example of how affordable, obtainable and useable music technology has shaped the modern music scene.

With just a little more work Rafztar will surely rise from the ranks of bedroom experimenters to the forefront of the international electronic beat making scene. Many other electronic-based producers dial down some of the elements which made them entertaining, in exchange for mainstream pop status.

Rafztar shows no such inclination, subtly allowing in Bhangra/Bollywood flavors into some of his mixes. “The Past” may have the luscious fleshed out arrangements with a clean sheen, but underneath lurks a darker, rawer edge chomping at the bit to break out.

The album as a whole pays close attention to contrasting elements and sound design, but usually maintains an intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-outro song structure. And also includes many melodic moments. At times, the album experiments with adventurous song structures and sound elements which Rafztar pulls off with great flair.

Upon listening to “The Past”, however, It’s clear that Rafztar hasn’t strayed too far from what defines his sound, but there is certainly a more mature, professional and intricate sound design making its way into his personal formula.


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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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