“I be with MIKE and Med, Nowadays I be with Sage and with 6press” rapped Earl Sweatshirt on his last, and most polarizing, full length album “Some Rap Songs”. To many Sweatshirt fans, myself included, these names were unknown. However, the album yielded a completely new creative and aesthetic direction for Odd Future’s former lyrical protégé. Loop-ridden, sample-based production; intentionally rugged, lo-fi mixing; accompanied by raw, emotionally bare penmanship – it was a stylistic detour for Earl. Whilst I loved the album, I was curious to understand the roots of this new sound – an answer later found in those seemingly meaningless namedrops. Artists MIKE, Adé Hakim (formerly 6press), king Carter, Daryll Joseph, Jodi.10k and Mason Dreiling have pioneered this artistic niche since 2016 as part of the New York city-based underground hip-hop collective, [sLUms]. Their consistency and dedication to remain true to their art and themselves for all these years is finally reaping rewards; turning one of their greatest idols Earl Sweatshirt into a frequent collaborator and adding their artistic stamp to his discography with “Some Rap Songs” is only the start.
Formed sometime in 2016, [sLUms] was originally a group of six highschoolers dealing with similar struggles that came together through a shared solace – music. As one of the founding members and current figurehead, MIKE described it in an interview with Hypebeast,
“[sLums] really started off as a group of friends from different backgrounds and sh*t. At the time we was all in crazy situations, at least at the times because we was young. We really just helped each other out. It was six homies — me, Ruben, Darryl, King, Adé and the homie Mason and we would really just create sh*t”
Whilst a vision may not have been set in stone from the onset, the group has been tireless in their craft and have a plethora of individual projects across Youtube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and now Spotify to show for their efforts despite just the one official release as a collective, “Friends of Ours”. In a Youtube documentary Jodi.10k admitted that he and most of the members “didn’t have much going on aside from the music” which is what has inspired their zeal to create and led to their acceptance of music as a career path.
For all their activity for the past 4-5 years, their journey to success has been very gradual; the group is only just starting to breach the surface of hip-hop’s ‘underground’. Citing some of music’s more esoteric greats like Madvillainy (MF DOOM and Madlib), King Krule and of course Earl Sweatshirt as key influences, it is not surprising that their sound did not appeal to all during their come up. Like some of the aspects of Some Rap Songs, their material is characterized by raw, unpolished production, that is paired with poignant lyrics ranging from inner struggles to their own environment – a style that seems to have an increasingly smaller role in hip hop’s forefront.
This never bothered the group – in fact this is one of the features of the duo Madvillainy that inspires [sLUms]. As MIKE explains:
“That’s one of the reasons I f*ck with DOOM. He really created a world for his fans to live in. He inspired a lot of people to do their own sh*t. Artists like Madlib were able to create their own world and were willing to open their minds for people”
The collective has certainly achieved similar accolades as they have independently built a strong core following through the years that is now finally gaining traction and increasing.
Another refreshing aspect of the collective that makes their ascent even more respectable is their love of unity and helping other artists succeed. Whilst there are 6 official members of the group, Hakim has described [sLUms] as a boundless movement that aims to bring all creatives with similar visions together. The group’s rise has also seen the rise of similar contemporaries such as producer/ rappers Mavi and Pink Siifu, singer Liv.e and even the UK-based Jadasea. MIKE put it best when stating:
“I feel like we introduced a new energy. Low-key just on some love sh*t in the city — I’m not gonna cap, before that I feel like everybody was tryna be a cool guy. It was weird. We low-key made n*ggas loosen up in the hood”
An energy that is now being reciprocated by all around them. When you manage any sort of influence on the work of your idol, especially to the extent that [sLUms] did on Some Rap Songs, you’ve got to be doing something right.
Some of the group’s projects to check out: Friends of Ours (available on Bandcamp and Soundcloud), May God Bless Your Hustle – Mike, ON THE ROAD, SUNNY PATH – Adé Hakim.