Philadelphia-based producer/rapper Raj Haldar AKA Lushlife’s 2009 effort Cassette City flew under a lot of radars, but those who chanced upon it were undoubtedly swept away by its deftly produced, sunny sounds. Hip-hop and indie rock have started to mesh a little over the years and Haldar set himself up as a true talent. His beats are much more immediate than the blossoming “cloud rap,” but more intricate and creative than the obvious sampling by the likes of Lupe Fiasco and Chiddy Bang. As such, the album packed a hook-filled punch that made him a figure to keep an eye on in the future.
With Plateau Vision, we see Lush take a slightly darker turn. There’s still plenty of pep, for instance opener “Magnolia” with some harp glissando and sound effects that recall The Avalanches’ Since I Left You or “Anthem” which dons some vintage radio fuzz over an easygoing groove. But much of the record features hollowed out vocal samples, lots of reverb and harder beats.
“Still I Hear the Word Progress” comes in the two spot with thick synth tones and heavy drums. Lush raps with more aggression than we’ve heard yet and there’s also a guest verse by Styles P. “Big Sur,” however, finds a middle ground: Beautiful strings sped up to sound like a Maps & Atlases track are juxtaposed with a classic 90s style beat.
Lush has the technical ability to rap over his beats, but definitely isn’t as skilled a lyricist. His flow is more than adequate, but his complex rhyme schemes often lend themselves to words of little meaning. It’s very cerebral and it sounds good, but at the heart of it is nothing poignant. The key problem is that he hasn’t yet established an identity for himself as an emcee. All we really know about him is the music he likes, which he constantly name drops. While the man does have taste, from Joy Division all the way to Burt Bacharach, we can tell implicitly by the quality of his beats, which meld them so well; there’s no need to also mention the inspiration by name.
It seems like Haldar wants to follow the Kanye West producer/rapper layout, but unfortunately he hasn’t demonstrated that he has the character or personality that West does. Maybe it’s because Lush never had it as bad as him, maybe it’s his formal, classical background. There’s nothing wrong with that, but perhaps it’s the one thing that keeps him from the upper echelon of the genre. He can rap. He just doesn’t write about anything particularly meaningful. Cassette City worked a tad better because the lyrics fit the sunny feeling Haldar projected.
It’s easy to listen through the album and realize you don’t remember a single thing the guy has said. And while that can be a slight on the lyrics, it’s also a huge testament to the quality of the music. The beats are always the star of the show and the vocals are like another instrument to go with them. The depth isn’t as important as the vibe, but it works surprisingly well on Plateau Vision. Listeners will thoroughly enjoy sitting through it strictly for the vibes, which are indeed quite lush. Closing track “Stakk Cheddar Galore Alwyn Dias” simply washes over the listener with a gorgeous beat and by then it’s gotten to the point that it doesn’t really matter what he says because the music says it all.
Upcoming rappers take note: you really ought to get some beats from this guy.
Lushlife – Plateau Vision tracklist:
- “Still I Hear the Word Progress”
- “The Romance of the Telescope”
- “Big Sur”
- “Gymnopedie 1.2”
- “Hale-Bopp Was the Bedouins”
- “She’s a Buddhist, I’m a Cubist”
- “Stakk Cheddar Alwyn Dias”