The past year has allowed for something we don’t see much in modern times – an underground left to simmer and go unstirred for a solid four seasons. Since the spring of 2020 commenced, live music has been essentially nonexistent, and artists from rooks to vets the same have been inside cultivating and evolving in one way or another. Among the rookie camp’s smartest picks this February is none other than DICI, whose self-titled EP feels like a fusion of minimalist pop and spitfire hip-hop most will never even know they craved until hearing it for the very first time.
There’s no overstating the bass anywhere in this record’s tracklist, and whether it be the tight groove of “Bar for Bar” or the collage melodies of “Vector,” DICI himself is very careful about exploiting the rhythm of the music as much as he does his own poetry. While he runs into some tough mountains to climb in the complex “305-INTERLUDE” and bonus track “Shibuya,” he doesn’t get lax in his vocal delivery – he modulates and adapts a verse to suit the swing of the bassline. It’s at times a bit conservative, but this could be why his debut release sounds so poised in comparison to others I’ve heard recently.
DICI’s vocal is light, crisp and allows for the lyrics to be the weightiest element in any given song. “Vector” and “Bar for Bar” could be showcase singles for his technique, while “4door” is the undisputed identity track of this EP for one main reason – it encapsulates all of his alluring confidence without depicting him as an arrogant teenage rap prodigy. He knows his way around a studio, and if this weren’t true I don’t believe this record would feel like the landmark release that it quite often does.
Though he’s clearly been influenced by minimalism and indie pop in his approach to instrumentation, there’s nothing in DICI’s eponymous extended play that becomes stripped of color or personality by any means – truthfully, it’s the exact opposite. His efficiencies are what lend immense credibility to the little bit of tonal luster there is to be heard in “4door” and “Bar for Bar,” and in moments like those in “Shibuya,” his organic vocal has more definition than any other component of the mix. It’s easy to overindulge in the producer’s chair; doing something like this takes a lot of unteachable skill, wit and talent.
I’ve been getting pickier about what I deem must-listen hip-hop in the past year due to the volume of quality work that’s been rising through the ranks, and DICI’s first release unquestionably makes the mark. It’s fun, unpretentious and cohesive in all of artistry, and though it isn’t without a couple of excusable cosmetic flaws here and there, DICI himself makes no ill-fated attempt to bury them in the bells and whistles too many of his contemporaries might just as soon record an entire LP around. He’s an integrity-first kind of musician, and that’s made very clear in this five-track introduction to his work.