During my time writing for Bucketlist, I’ve heard my fair share of bedroom projects, from one-man black metal bands to improvisational synth duos. Some releases were worth a single listen, others should have never been uploaded to the internet in the first place. Listening to the first couple minutes of SSF1, the new EP by Cincinnati, OH beatmaker ShakySuperFly, I could instantly tell it was one of the best solo projects I’ve heard thus far.
All I know about making hip-hop beats is from looking over the shoulder of a rapper I used to live with. Inspiration comes from all angles, but only the cream of the crop moves on to the next phase, while dozens of unfinished hooks and loops never see the light of day. With only six tracks to offer up, you know ShakySuperFly is giving you the best of the best.
I don’t normally listen to a lot of instrumental music, but there’s enough human voices in each track in the form of clipped dialogue from an obscure movie, with a heavy echo effect applied. For “Twist,” ShakySuperFly loops a soulful vocal line that sounds familiar, but I can’t exactly place where they stole it from. The final track “Forgetmenot” takes a single line out of a 16-bar rap verse, and plays it over and over.
I feel like an old man saying this, but I can’t stand the repetitive trap beats of today. I prefer old school beats, which is probably why I ended up liking SSF1 so much. It has this nostalgic feeling to it, as if they’re starting and stopping an R&B record on the turntable and adding a groovy drum beat over it, like they used to do in the early days of hip-hop.
Underneath all the samples and drums is a 16-bit synthesizer that gives the beat a video game vibe. As “2%” winds down, we hear the bare bones of the synthesizer keyboard, as if you had just walked into a sleepy town in a classic Legend of Zelda game.
A lot of people make hip-hop beats in the hopes that some rapper will come along and buy them. But I would argue that there’s enough substance in ShakySuperFly’s beats that having someone rap over them would be completely unnecessary, and might in fact ruin the song. Each track builds, warps and evolves over the course of a digestible three minutes. It’s the perfect soundtrack to mellow out to and slowly bob your head along to while you study or doodle.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate