By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
It’s nice to be surprised every once in a while.
As 2021 sets in and we all acclimate to the new year, music releases tend to be slow and trickle in more and more over time. That doesn’t mean people aren’t dropping: even now, some nice projects are circulating around the streaming service of your choice…
And what better way to kick off 2021 than with a new EP by Graceful Anon? The Camden MC is a living, breathing example of hip-hop’s artful side, weaving in deft flows and conscious lyrics alongside jazzy loops in a way that is both hypnotic and energizing. He works alongside Canadian producer Checkpoints on this EP, hitting fans with a jazzy and satisfying release that proves the duo has some of the best skills the underground has to offer.
While there is no true theme that I could find among Across the Border’s 6 tracks, I can definitely say this is a confident display of skill on both the mic and behind the boards. Checkpoints’ production here is consistently dusty, cold, and atmospheric…amazing considering his young age. The flute arpeggios and chimes on the instrumental intro set the tone perfectly for the kind of meditative hip-hop the EP brings to the table. The EP’s compositions are dense despite their brevity: you’ll hear string samples, chipmunk-soul loops and guitar strumming on the fantastic second track “From Canada with Love” and triumphant horns and tones on the enthralling closer “Joe Carter (Walk Off).” Checkpoints is in his bag here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way: it’s the soundtrack to a meditative winter night as you contemplate your hustle.
And speaking of hustle, boy does GF Anon show his hustle throughout this project. The New Jersey MC is no doubt a talented wordsmith, something he put fully on display in last year’s Canvas of a Radiant Child album…but he opts to showcase more of his cocky and proud side here. It’s a nice contrast to the meditative instrumentals, but it also meshes with it well. Anon’s performance here is almost like hearing his pre-show monologue, firing himself up before he goes on the world stage to impress the competition. A song like “From Canada with Love” exemplifies this, with almost every syllable being as forceful and passionate as a church sermon; “Jottin’ down aspirations while you’re puffin’ your cig” he claims, openly showing his hopes for the future and bashing those that sit on their laurels while he grinds. While there isn’t much wordplay per se, the sentiment is tangible. Anon matches vintage sampling of the lo-fi “Living Facades” perfectly, rapping about fake friends and small circles in a way that doesn’t devolve to paranoia and arrogance like so many other MCs. I genuinely believe Anon’s lifestyle is the best route he can go down: his passion possesses the listener, helping them realize that your real best friends are hard to find come by…
“Noli” further carries the confident and fiery emotion Anon keeps throughout the album, with numerous references to overcoming hardship and attaining a greater state of being. This confidence is made even more tangible on “1 AM Freestyle,” a braggadocios display of lyrical brawn plastered on a haunting soul loop. The whole album feels like a freestyle, actually, but in the best way. The lo-fi energy and dusty sound, the mature and emotional delivery? It feels like it was recorded on one snowy night, with every second being improvised from the heart and drum kit. It’s truly a unique blend of raw talent and great performances. “Jow Carter (Walk Off)” is truly a homerun, with the aforementioned beat being a glorious dropback to GF Anon’s victory lap…
Need I say more? This EP is a must listen for anyone into jazz rap, underground musicians, or simply good music. This was a great display of talent from two highly skilled artists. I look forward to what they do next!
Special thanks to GF Anon, Checkpoints, Andrew White, and all other parties involved for sending this record our way!
Stream Across the Border below!
SOFLOSOUND.com is your one stop shop for a music fan’s music reviews, profiles, and essays. By the youth, for the youth, and allied with all oldheads, everywhere. Leave a comment below on what you want to see next!