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“Buddha” by rapper Elz Bentley

In his new single “Buddha,” rapper Elz Bentley continues to develop the sound he introduced to us in his debut LP Bentley whilst inviting a couple of new and exciting angles to his style of delivery that might not have been as detectable in previous studio cuts. Utilizing a black and white backdrop as a canvas atop which he pours one colorful – though sleek – verse after another, Elz Bentley doesn’t waste a stitch of time getting right into the guts of this track and making us feel every inch of physicality the backend of the groove can produce. Instrumentally speaking, this isn’t the most elaborate hip-hop single I’ve heard this year, but it may well be one of the more sonically stimulating just the same.

You don’t have to be some kind of professional music critic to pick up on the diverse influences in Bentley’s background here; in all honesty, I think it’s rather obvious from the get-go that he’s not looking to create carbon copies of contemporary rhymes at all. There’s a stoic surrealism to his execution behind the mic that never fails to send chills down my back, especially in the first half of the song. He has the opportunity to augment his vocal and chase a synthesized harmony on a couple of occasions in “Buddha,” and yet he never indulges. Bentley has a strange affinity for lean beats and buoyant verses, and it’s making for one of the sexiest cocktails I’ve come across this summer in his most recent release.

While this artist definitely has a potent rap flow, I think it’s even more impressive that his lyrics never sound forced or smashed together in an effort to create consistency where there would otherwise be none. There’s a disturbing trend on the mainstream side of the dial that has seen a lot of provocative and talented rappers steering away from poetic substance in favor of vocal virtuosities and implied brawniness in the studio, and I believe the fact that Elz Bentley isn’t following this trajectory will essentially be what preserves his sound from the collapse many of his peers are soon to face. Creative populism doesn’t look pretty in politics or pop music, and this is one player who isn’t giving it any quarter this July.

He’s still got a lot of room to continue growing into his sound, but for the time being, there aren’t many young hip-hop artists that I would recommend keeping as close an eye on as I would Elz Bentley. Bentley has an ease with this medium that is something to marvel at all on its own, and yet he doesn’t exude a whole lot of arrogance in this single at all. Contrarily, there’s a humble tone to his lyrical style that I want to hear him explore even more than he already has, and in time I can definitely see where it could do a lot to distinguish his brand of beats from that of the masses. He’s got my attention, and through “Buddha,” I think he’ll have yours as well.

Mindy McCall 

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