Elucid: “Valley of Grace” EP Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

The first words we hear on the new EP by New York rapper Elucid are “I’m taking time away to dream”. The mostly instrumental opener to the dimly lit and highly experimental Valley Of Grace is entitled “Self Care Is A Revolutionary Act”, and it acts as a mission statement for the rest of the EP, which was made when Elucid was travelling throughout South Africa, and it was recorded in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. There’s also spoken lines on the record like, “Have you been good to yourself,” and other song titles “Strength is Admired Humanity is Denied”, ensuring the listener just from looking at the tracklist that this is going to be a deeply reflective twenty eight minutes of cutting-edge underground hip-hop.

On his Bandcamp page where you can stream the album, Elucid, whose real name is Chaz Hall, describes his goal of interpreting the themes of nativity that are presented on this record:

“I’d go to the store in Timberland boots and no socks for sausage to make with eggs that were smaller but creamier than ones I got back home. I settled into my mornings with a spliff, a latte from a fancy coffee spot where white folk spoke Afrikaans and a fatcake from a local spot packed with black city workers in neon green vests speaking Xhosa and Zulu”.

There’s both spoken word and rapping on the EP about Cape Town and Hall’s admiration of it. “Im’ma build me a palace/Surrounded by electric fences/In Cape Town, South Africa/Escaping New York city”, raps Elucid on “Colonizers Corpse”. The preceding track, the piano driven “Dutch Wax”, shares something in common with the former in that it’s one of the only tracks where Hall’s flow matches the beat of the track, and he describes his time as an “African-American alien wandering the Motherland”.

Musically, the EP is completely bonkers. From classic conscious-hip hop beats all the way to highly experimental soundscapes that can be likened to Animal Collective’s early albums, then to the mashing of what sounds like two different samples at once, Hall keeps the listener on their toes. The songs are bite-sized, with most of them clocking in around the 1 ½ minute mark. The EP’s one true anomaly is the ten minute “She’d Rather Be A Cyborg Than A Goddess”, which samples various phone calls over Hall’s rapping with a beat that’s more or less in sync with his flow, before completely turning left and becoming a synthesized epic that reaches for the stars at its half-way point. Then, it seems as everything falls apart into fragments during the last three minutes. With this EP now out in the world, it will be interesting where Elucid takes his sound on his follow up to his debut album, last year’s Save Yourself.