My summer was far different than any I had experienced up to this point. Getting a summer internship in New Hampshire, it was the first summer I would spend not in my hometown; the first I would spend in five years not scooping ice cream for minimum wage and pounding free chili cheese dogs on the job; the first I would spend on my own, without the familiarity of my high school friends, my high school habits, my high school life.
Although we age, summer remains an overpowering agent of nostalgia, lazing us with the simplicity of the life we once knew when the majority of our friends lived only a bike ride away. This comforting familiarity slipped away from me last June as I settled into the sliver of adult life that a full-time internship offers. As I lived through the growing pains the experience brought along with it, I did the only thing I know how to do in times of change: I listened to music. Everybody has their things that bring them solace in this world, and for me, it’s always been music. These are the artists, albums and songs that went on to give me a new sense of comfort this summer and will remain rattling around my head for summers to come.
Mach-Hommy is an incredibly unique Haitian-American hip-hop artist hailing from New Jersey. Hommy’s music contains a near-palpable feel to it, with melodies seemingly attained from an entirely disparate plane of existence. With his stream-of-consciousness flow that he best self-describes on “Simbi” as “Estuary English,” Hommy truly feels like an alien making rap music. Similar to many of my favorite novelists, Mach-Hommy is a universe-builder, constructing entire worlds for the listener to step into and become completely enveloped in. His music is origami poetry constructed with elegant dexterity, each tuck and fold containing worlds of sophistication, creativity and precision.
Every Mach-Hommy album is an entirely different nebula, containing imagery, styles and overarching themes unique unto itself. The Haitian artist is at his most powerful when he’s ripping open his ribcage on wax, delivering heart-wrenching tales of vulnerability and self-assessment.
The two Mach-Hommy moments that struck me the most deeply this summer were “Chiney Brush,” from his June-released “Wap Konn Jòj!”, and “Carpe DM,” from the Earl Sweatshirt-produced “Fete Des Morts AKA Dia De Las Muertos.” On “Chiney Bush,” Hommy raps, “Though nothing jerk tears like separation / When what you learn don’t matter, what you heard / If it’s what you hold dear, end up disintegrating / Even if it’s instantaneous or if it’s in phases / Places, places, places everyone.” In doing so, he perfectly sums up the pain of losing something meaningful over production that sounds like a midnight, rain-splatted, greasy spoon diner window personified. It’s a gorgeous moment that hit me like a train the first time I heard it.
Meanwhile, on “Carpe DM,” Hommy spills his soul as he harmonizes, “Hold tight / You better hold on to it / You never ever know if heaven close doors, do it?” It’s a strikingly melodious moment that captures his oddball harmonizing to a tee while supplying the food for thought and ornate writing his music has proven to command. There’s something
about so metaphysical about his music that grasps onto my entire understanding of existence. These moments are the ones that left me in a philosophical stupor and comforted me beyond explanation. Mach-Hommy’s power lies in this gray area between music and magic, pragmatism and kef, that dazzles esoterically as much as it digs its heels into reality.
Milo holds a special place in my heart for a handful of reasons. His 2015 album, “So the Flies Don’t Come,” was one of the albums that helped me get through the biggest transitional period of my life a few years back. Milo raps tender-hearted, philosophically-laden confessions, and while I’ll never understand all of his music – as much of it is based in complex references to historic philosophy – he has a wowing ability to beautifully articulate his life’s woes. For this reason, listening to one of his albums is an incredible undertaking, both emotionally and intellectually. Thus, I had never gotten around to listening to his 2017 album “Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!” until this summer when I stumbled across the video to the album’s ninth song, “Sorcerer.”
In the music video, Milo is blithely capering across an abandoned tennis court, wielding a sword and occasionally rapping along to his own song. The video comes across as pretty meaningless and silly at first glance, but once you dig into Milo’s catalog, it starts to hold an immense weight. Milo often references a broadsword his father gifted him in many of his songs, and in the song “True Nen” from “So the Flies Don’t Come,” he says that it was to use “in times of peril.” Also mentioned on this album, specifically on “An Encyclopedia,” Milo references the death of 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, a young black man killed by police officers on a tennis court when he was found cosplaying the anime character Mugen. This is one of the most emotional moments in Milo’s catalog, and once the pieces are put together that the music video for “Sorcerer” contains these connotations, everything gains that much more gravity.
Over a beat that sounds carefree and airy, Milo disintegrates the chains off his soul, allowing himself to once again fly freely. Throughout the song, he raps quips like, “These are careful notes of every lack in me,” “You should’ve been a stock broker, f*** that” and “At the bottom of the well and I’m screaming, ‘There’s still more,’” before arriving at his grand conclusion: “The consequences can buffer, I / Flourish in the lag time, I / Flourish in the lag time, while / Suffering was normalized, I / Flourish in the lag time, behind the / Stalactites of my mind, I / Flourish in the lag time.” He repeats these lines over and over, his voice cracking with emotion and empowerment.
“Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!” carries the powerful undercurrent of how poets are undervalued in today’s society and that leisure time in order to ponder and create is a vital and often overlooked aspect of life. Milo gets to the very heart of this with these lines on “Sorcerer,” and as someone who feels like they’re cut from a very similar creative’s cloth, this song immediately punctured my soul with sincerity, relatability and truth. “Sorcerer” has since become a personal thesis statement of mine, and Milo’s repetition at the end of the song a sort of incant of assuagement for when things get difficult.
Your Old Droog
Your Old Droog, a New York rapper of Ukrainian descent who was once mistook as Nas’ alter-ego, is a polarizing figure. He regularly dismantles and blocks critics on Twitter, shuns a large majority of hip-hop journalism and detests mainstream rap for its impetuous and carbon-copy qualities. Droog’s work, specifically 2019’s “It Wasn’t Even Close,” backs up his brash attitude, existing as a massive departure from what he despises in the music industry. “It Wasn’t Even Close” is a true labor of love, a wordsmith’s passion project crafted by an MF DOOM/Big L/Sean Price super-fan.
“It Wasn’t Even Close” is the ornate lovechild birthed from the underground of New York’s subway system. There’s jaw-dropping one-liners (“Man, I don’t know who slicker / I do this, even when I’m under the weather like a news ticker / Still get an ovation, gotta tip ya hat like a bum on a train with donations,” from “Gyros”), minimalistic, avant-garde New York production that puts an emphasis on lyricism (“Babushka,” “Bubble Hill”) and the feeling throughout that Droog is putting every ounce of his creative gall into the project.
Droog crafted an album that puts his passion for words first and foremost, and in doing so, reminded me of my love of creative writing. It’s this focus on the craft of writing that has brought me to cherish Your Old Droog’s music and hope to never get blocked by him on Twitter. The latter may be unlikely.