Teiji Mack, Lavenders for Ty (self-released)
Find It: nubiandonuts.bandcamp.com
There’s a lot to like about Keiji Mack’s Lavenders for Ty. For one, Columbia’s Mack, whose production we’ve praised in these pages, is a pretty engaging emcee. When he locks into a groove — as he does on “Love” and “Arya Stark” — he’s vibrant and winning, and maybe a tiny bit like Childish Gambino’s Donald Glover. He’s clever, too, peppering his bars with pop-culture punchlines (“Emotions coming like they Brittany, hit me one more time,” he raps on “Lin (Blame It On),” “She built like Megan thee Stallion, that’s a different breed”), video-game references (“Hit the right ones like Scorpion / She comin’ back to me,” from “Golden Child Pt. 3”) and ancient Greek gods. Seriously — who references Hephaestus before spitting “Boy, I hit the face-lift like Arya Stark”?
But Lavenders could benefit from some belt-tightening. Most of the albums’ 10 tunes clock in between two and four minutes, but they’re plagued with false starts and muddled motion. “Stevie Wonder” putters around for about 90 seconds — close to half its run time — before really kicking in; if Mack had trimmed the first 60 of those and led instead with the drumless hook before dropping in the sparse but powerful beat, the song would have had more punching power. (That Mack and V.Renee repeat “I’m wasting time” as a droning mantra in that first minute is funny, in an ironic way.) “Lin (Blame It On),” which rides on a pulsing synth line and bittersweet background horns, leads off with a solid verse and slides into a good hook, but then it rides the hook for its last 90 seconds. That’s half the song’s run time, and it makes “Lin” feel less like a complete thought than an undeveloped draft. “Low (Frequency),” too, suffers from an intro that vamps when it should vroom. (Mack also tries to build “Low” into a suite-like edifice out of variegated parts. Only the dreary and druggy second half really hits.)
Still, when Mack is focused, it sounds like he’s having fun, and that’s when Lavenders is at its sharpest. “Green” is, like most of the rest of the record, a little overlong and takes too long to really get started. But when it does, it fires on all cylinders. The chiptune-forward beat vomits arpeggiated sunshine. Mack spits coolly and confidently, dropping references to anime and ’90s R&B and Cash Money rappers. He closes his 24 bars by referencing the Ying Yang Twins’ “Say I Yi Yi” and collapsing in a fit of laughter. It’s a great moment in a good song — one that drives home the feeling that Mack has incredible potential.