Look in The Local Bin: Scabb

I first heard Scabb when listening to the Manor House playlist in anticipation for the weekend house show. The young MC quickly caught my ear with his ability to backflip through styles while keeping things smooth and even. His single “Almost” was a breath of fresh air in Kansas City’s hip hop scene (which, given the vibrancy of the scene, is a high order compliment). When I heard Scabb was recording more material I was simultaneously excited and scared–excited to see how this rapper would approach a full length and scared more output would mar his near flawless single. Now, my fears were proved irrational. Scabb has released his debut, Nuisance, an album that is as pleasurable to listen piecemeal as it is to let flow in its entirety.

Starting with the bass-loaded track “Kramer,” Scabb establishes his sound as having all the grit of SK La Flare and the smoothness of Atmosphere. The instrumental track bumps from start to finish with a deceptively simple bass line overlaid with jerky percussion. The track leaves Scabb a lot of material to skate over, undulating under his vocal rhythms with an organicness that can only come from mastery both in the booth and behind the mic.

From this initial track, Scabb continues to hit the mark again and again. The Kansas City rapper and producer collages classic samples over dirty bass lines and synthy textures. The combination of these elements give his instrumentals a timelessness to them. Listening to Nuisance, one might be tempted to place it in the early 90s. One might also be tempted to place it in the oeuvre of contemporary hip hop.

And this timelessness is at its greatest on “Combs.” The song, with its loud production, sounds like a cut off of Endroducing DJ Shadow, but Scabb’s flows uncurl like a Drake / Kendrick Lamar hybrid. The rapper’s ability to flex through the song’s beat is second only to his dexterity and subtlty as a producer–reigning in the track’s sounds just south of clipping without losing the dynamic range and deep bass.

Nuisance doesn’t turn much in terms of scope and style as it unwinds. That said, with a sound as infectious as Scabb’s this is a mere quibble. The MC is able to realize not only an aesthetic that is not represented in the KC hip hop scene but also one that boasts massive amounts of potential. As a debut, Nuisance is as strong as any other. That said, Scabb seems to still have plateaus to reach.

One of these plateaus is hinted at in the concluding track “Samuel.” Barely over two minutes, the track seems to be more of a sketch of things to come than a fully realized song. But “Samuel” is like a DaVinci sketch. Scabb flows associative over the piano sample and jittering beat, delivering some of his most surprising bars.

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