Review: H31R – Ve·loc·i·ty
National Music Reviews
H31R = Lil Simz + Apani B + Angelika
With Ve·loc·i·ty, Brooklyn-based rapper-and-producer duo H31r have created an interesting, genre-bending album that is worth a listen to people who love experimental work or are looking to expand their horizons. With 12 solid tracks, Ve·loc·i·ty is a wonderful collection of pieces from the artists, taking listeners on a sonic journey that sometimes seems like rap and sometimes feels like an extended spoken word piece.
Ve·loc·i·ty is a deep dive into the world of H31R, filled with tales of the artists’ life delivered through clever wordplay and wordsmithing that brings one back to the older, lyrically dominated days of rap. “Grtz,” as an example, has intricate, free-flowing lyrics that feel almost like a slam poem with hip-hop themes. “I could only get with it on somedays / It takes a toll to listen to what you say / Catch me on a Sunday, lord’s day / Otherwise a n***** will be choosy,” emcee Maasai raps, diving into relationship troubles and concerns, using metaphors and a punchy flow to keep things interesting.
The best part about Ve·loc·i·ty is its lack of genre definition. Songs like “heavy on my crown” blend of drum-and-bass production and avant-garde jazz with a lyricist in front of the mic, a delightfully confusing blend of sounds that I haven’t heard before. Other songs, like “breathe thru it,” are a bit more approachable to the mainstream listener with a more linear, less free-form production style, butthe free-flowing, spoken-word vibe that H31R leans into remains.
Throughout the album, Maasai has a unique delivery and flow that really stands out. Oftentimes, they will switch up rhyme structure, falling slightly off the usual beat of the song on purpose. This “drawing outside the lines” can be heard on “take a hold” particularly well: “You don’t even know my name / You just want to take my big spirit and throw it in a plane,” Massai raps, using too many syllables in the second bar, causing the listener’s ears to perk up and allowing the words to provide a greater impact. To match Massai’s unsyncopated lyrics, producer JWORDS keeps the beat going like a drummer during a guitar solo, patiently waiting for Massai to jump back on the rhythm. Other times, on tracks like “toxic behavior,” JWORDS is the one that goes off, incorporating free jazz elements and drums that are hard to follow, with Massai keeping the structure with their voice as the song progresses.
For the hip-hop and experimental music fan alike, Ve·loc·i·ty is a great piece to dive into. Be sure to look out for more releases from H31R on their Bandcamp. –Taylor Hartman