Hip-hop is so much more than the most popular genre on the planet right now; truth be told, it’s the center of western culture, and it takes a special kind of artist to advance its narrative beyond the bar as it’s presently been set. Nonetheless, up-and-coming rapper ALYST sounds intent on aiming as high as possible in his new collaboration with Affluent Oscar Sanchez, “Gleeming,” and for my money, his is an effort more than worthy of some buzz this autumn. ALYST’s best quality is his straddling ferocious grooves with supple vocals and fading harmonies, and amidst an increasingly aggressive mainstream, his approach is one that could really catch on nicely right now.
The attitude that ALYST brings to the music video for “Gleeming” is as much a reflection of his composing style as the actual performance he’s putting down in the studio is, and better yet, I get the impression that he’s holding back just enough to ensure a powerhouse stage experience for those who seek it out. There’s no point in giving us everything he can do all at once here; by teasing us with the depth and sonic integrity of his studio sound, he’s making future projects and live content all the more appetizing.
There’s something to be said for a rapper who can be efficient with an arrangement while still giving us something really emotional from behind the mic, and though I can’t say whether or not ALYST would manage a ballad with the same mannerisms he does “Gleeming,” he gives up a degree of passion here that makes me curious to find out sooner than later. You can’t fake the kind of calm, centered energy he has at the helm of this project, nor the foundational craftsmanship that went into its design in the first place.
You could argue that the bass here is a little more indulgent than the average line would be for a track structured the way “Gleeming” is, but considering what ALYST and Sanchez are doing with it, I think it’s fair to say it the excess has an important role to play here just the same. I’ve got no problem with liberal componentry when it benefits a narrative or eroticizes the groove, and in the case of this all-new single and its accompanying music video, the latter is absolutely true. I love the understated swing, and the fact that this player is creating it with minimal percussion is really impressive.
ALYST is a lot of things, but he’s definitely not a status quo rapper that I would expect to see devolve into the background for anything this year. “Gleeming” unites him with a very talented partner in Affluent Oscar Sanchez, but frankly I don’t think there’s a moment in which he isn’t capturing the lion’s share of the spotlight for himself – and sounding downright brilliant in doing so. I like where his head is at right now, and in today’s hip-hop game, having legit focus is more than a solid attribute; it’s a cornerstone of success, period.