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“In the Vault” by Slick Naim

A timid groove. An echoing vocal’s lingering presence over a subtle but dingy bassline. A beat that just won’t back down. The first fifteen seconds of “In the Vault,” the new single from Slick Naim, are shards of glass that have been pieced back together in an attempt to see inside the soul of a rapper and his craft. They are simple but unkempt, and though they lack a poppy luster, they are perhaps more authentic in the disheveled look they’re featuring here.

Naim’s vocal is sewn into the background melodies with surgical precision, but there’s never a moment where we’re unable to tell who and what is responsible for the grandeur flooding out of the stereo in this track.   The rapping is assertive, flirts with a melodic singing style that crosses over into trap-flavored territory every once in a while, and is constantly occupying center stage. The music has an OG-style swing to it, but I don’t get an old-school replica vibe from this track; ironically, I think that the structure of this first half of the song is more of an homage to the unfinished ideas of 90’s hip-hop that never came to fruition. He’s taking the confident crush of the bass and affixing it with a lyrical luminosity that is very modern and trendy, but there’s nothing recycled in the construction of “In the Vault.” Naim strikes me as a man who follows his intuition, and therefore borrowing from any of his peers or predecessors would be, in essence, a waste of his time and talents.

Because this isn’t the first entry in his discography, there’s plenty for us to compare Slick Naim’s “In the Vault” outside of other than mainstream pop, rap, and R&B, all three of which fail at even attempting to hold as much aesthetical water as this single does. There is no one way to break this composition down because of its multilayered design, and despite the traditional nature of the beat, the percussive element here is probably one of the more complex that I’ve studied this July. I can’t tell whether he’s an experimentalist or just another alternative rapper with a unique setup and approach to writing a balladic hip-hop track, but in either case, he’s got the chops to stick around long enough to show me an EP based on this conceptualism.  

“In the Vault” comes through the finish line with as much gusto as it starts with, and even though it feels progressively stylized and even a little operatic at times, the single totals up to only 2:41 in total running time. It’s a testament to how engaging a songwriter Slick Naim is, and while I’ve never been the biggest fan of indie hip-hop, this is a song that is simply too good to be overlooked (even by the music journalists of a discriminating taste). He’s shown us what he can do with a sweet power ballad, and if he can do the same with a loose, freewheeling jam, he’ll be the kind of dual-threat composer that this genre needs now more than ever before.

Mindy McCall  



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