A recurring narrative afloat in the fetid, turbulent sea of popular music discussion is the lament that rap music, especially contemporary rap music, is superficial braggadocio. In other words; “It’s all just guns, drugs, and bitches!” or some variation thereof. Beyond the inherently racist underpinnings of much of that sentiment about which much has already been written, it simply isn’t true. Important, introspective, earnest storytelling has been part of hip hop since its earliest days and is widely present in its modern iteration. Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Logic (to name a few) all drop bars that not only cut to the core of the cultural zeitgeist but explore their journey through it warts and all. Hell, guys like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil’ Skies, and Juice Wrld are effectively the emo kids of this generation and are some of the biggest stars in the genre. So where does Sour Life & Fast Food, the new EP from Denver, Colorado’s Extra Kool, fit into this particular milieu? Let’s dive in.
The sparse keys and boom-bap beat of opener “Kill the Snowmen” centers Extra Kool’s vibe squarely in the late 90s early 2000s, bringing to mind The Love Movement-era A Tribe Called Quest and probably more accurately, artists like Classified and Atmosphere. Kool’s delivery is breathy but deliberate, fitting the eerie, surrealist imagery of the track.
Kool’s flow gets sharper on “Purple Hands,” bringing the listener into a life of unrewarding service jobs, self-doubt, and the struggle to grind for the positive if spite of it all. Kool’s lyrics are evocative and relatable and while his flow is totally solid and his bars well crafted, his delivery lacks the grit and fire that the imagery in the song seems to require. The EP vacillates between the abstract and the highly personal, but with a few exceptions, notably the excellent closer “I’m Happy, I Swear,” Extra Kool’s rapping throughout Sour sounds somewhat emotionally detached.
Like the opening track, the production on the rest of Sour evokes a decidedly old school feeling that occasionally leans into some 8-bit nerdiness that pairs well with Extra Kool’s style and the visual aesthetic of the album. Some of the samples and beat voicings from earlier tracks resurface occasionally, but this provides the EP was a solid continuity. There is enough variety to keep things relatively fresh over Sour’s six tracks without the overall package feeling disjointed.
Hip hop heads, especially those into low-key, old-school stuff, could do a whole lot worse than Sour Life & Fast Food. Extra Kool crafts music with honesty and purpose, so it would be great to have a bit more of that passion that’s simmering just below the surface bubble over on future recordings.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Mike Milito