Hip-hop doesn’t always have to be a chest-beating, machismo-laden affair that disregards any sort of real humanity or emotional expressionism, and that’s proven in the new single by NoTrace, “Vibrations,” which sees the Upper Midwestern rapper teaming with Glenn Travis for a melodic jam sure to brighten anyone’s cloudy day. “Vibrations” is more than just a new single with a new beat and backing track that was designed to make your hips swing and set your night at the club on fire. This is a song that from the ground-up inspires on every front, whether it be through its dynamic lyrical attack, its visceral mix or its poignantly arranged music, which goes far and above what most, if any of us, would expect out of a hip-hop song in the late 2010’s. There are nounderlying politics, no secret agenda, and no sense that we’re being preached at or told of how wrong or inadequate our very existence is. There’s only the commanding NoTrace, a friendly voice in Glenn Travis, and the feeling that we’re not alone in the struggle – no matter how we choose to define it.
The vocal tracks that Travis and NoTrace drop here are clearly the star of the show in “Vibrations,” and you would have to be a fool to make the argument that the music, as captivating as it is, even comes close to rivalling the emotional crater left behind by the pair’s sleek execution. The music itself centers on the enunciation of every word, every syllable, and when there’s no rapping or singing to hold our attention, we tend to drift with the formlessness of the melody until we’re forced away from it. The instrumental bit of this song is hauntingly hypnotic, but I don’t think it’s quite as surreal and ambient as a lot of the underground stuff I’ve heard coming out of this part of the States has been lately. NoTrace’s Chicago roots are obvious in this track, but I also think that to dismiss any part of his style as being a resulting product of the identity of a larger scene or trend would be incredibly dismissive of his own personal originality.
If “Vibrations” is on par with what we can expect out of any, and/or every, collaboration between NoTrace and Glenn Travis, then I have a good feeling that this won’t be the only occasion that we happen to see both names adorning the title of a hot single making its way up the charts. The magic that I discovered in this song wasn’t just rooted in the sweet spot that these two skilled vocalists have found inside the studio together; it was also in the fact that not only did they find a way to get the most out of each other aesthetically in this song, but they used their platform to educate (and not placate) the public with a serious message about everyday life. If either of these cats end up climbing their way to the top of the pop hierarchy, hip-hop will undoubtedly be better for it.
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