Central Vermont rapper Robscure came up under the tutelage of the Boomslang crew (RIP, JL) and has since grown into a force of his own. After a stint in Winooski, he's currently trying to make it in New York City. Along the way, he has made a name for himself through consistent, carefully curated projects that blend old-school lyricism with adventurous production.
Robscure's latest offering, AIR, is the most ambitious tightrope act of his career to date. Why? He balances his tried-and-true approach with new stylistic risks.
He starts off the EP with two of the best rap songs out of Vermont this year. "Pilot," featuring Rivan C., is a catchy and clever summertime banger that sets the bar dangerously high. Yet "Echo" is every bit as great, a richly musical future R&B ballad with a knockout performance by vocalist Eva Rawlings.
From there, Robscure goes solo on "S T A T I C," delivering a personal testimony with real charisma and gravity. The song is far from flashy, but it exemplifies his recent growth as an artist. Robscure's ear for transforming beats and rhymes into a compelling journey for the listener has matured beyond his years. He's also forging his own voice into a style that's much more than the sum of his influences.
Up next is "Open the Window!," a celebration of nature in Vermont that veers into outright pop. This would damn near be a misstep without the staccato acrobatics of Hella Fader artist Juni the Wiccan. But his chemistry with Robscure — and their straight-up joy together — makes the song a perfect fit.
That kind of risk-taking defines the whole second half of this short, strong project. "VENT" is an expansive canvas of earnest, conscious rap, with warm crooning and a spoken-word outro. The following cut, "the feng shui," featuring Fractal Boi, is almost underwhelming at first yet turns out to be a lean, hypnotic journey with some Madlib aesthetics. None of the guest artists here is just phoning in 16 bars; these are all true collaborations from start to finish.
Closer "V01D" wraps up the EP on a high note, reprising earlier themes over the course of a long, playfully introspective verse. Dense with recursive wordplay and layered rhyme schemes, Robscure still makes it sound conversational and effortless.
Like any sensible rap entrepreneur, Robscure is a fully self-contained operation, taking on mixing and mastering duties himself. He delivers his cleanest and lushest work to date, with a huge dynamic range.
AIR is a deceptively breezy album that cements Robscure's place at the forefront of Vermont's new wave of hip-hop artists. He's carved out his own sound, and he's leveling up with every release. This is an EP with an album's worth of ideas, a perfect introduction to an artist at the height of his newfound power.
AIR is available on all major streaming platforms.