Twone Fari possesses a keen insight into the history of hip-hop – his work is heavily influenced by ‘90s rap but also holds an irreverence which is drawn directly from the 80’s. The Chattanooga artist – previously known as Zeu$ the Psychedelic/Zeu$ the Rastafarian -- is as comfortable doling out expressions of heightened braggadocio as he is exploring the realities of everyday life for people who’re subjected to various social inequities. There’s a fire to his voice, and whether he’s rapping about money and women or any number of struggles he himself has faced, the music is persuasive and doesn’t pander to cliched stereotypes.
Throughout his new record, “Sagiquarius,” Fari — and producer Blondehero (who also provide guest vocals on most of the tracks) — have constructed a time capsule of sorts, with sounds harkening back to early ‘90s East Coast rap, late ‘90s Southern hip-hop and even touching upon the musical impertinence of artists like De La Soul and Digital Underground. There are also heavy jazz impulses, which are perfectly fused with these different hip-hop histories. Across these 7 tracks, there is a wide berth of influence and inspiration, an unstable landscape of shifting rhythms and quixotic lyrical movements which underscores the malleability of Fari’s complicated creativity.
From the opening jazz atmospherics of “Juice (Intro)” to the Outkast-doused rhythms of closer “Sunshine,” the album is awash in unexpected musical pathways and divergences. The record’s centerpiece, “The Centaur,” is a monument to rhythmic elasticity and moody minimalism – it acts as the musical weight around which the other songs revolve, taking their cue from its subtle and complex composition. There are numerous hints of “Be”-era Common layered across the tracks, so just imagine the feel of Kanye’s concise production before he lost the spark.
Still, the music is rooted in the ‘90s despite some more modern flourishes. But “Sagiquarius” is no simple nostalgia trip. These songs move like mercury across glass, purposefully driven and often unpredictable but always mesmerizing and claiming your full attention. Tracks like “Eargasm” and “YELLOW,” with their charmingly ramshackle melodic foundations, highlight the inherent ingenuity coursing through the music’s DNA. Fari and Blondehero have crafted an ingenious ode to pure musical instinct and the subsequent unfiltered response which it evokes, and it’ll be fascinating to see where they go from here.