Written by Jesse Silbert
Make some herbal tea, sit by a window, and give Restless a listen. Safari Al (aka s. al, aka Alexander Kollman) is a young Kenosha, Wisconsin rapper who’s close friends with Hellfyre Club’s Milo and brandishes a Biomedical Engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. On his latest EP Restless, Al crafts six tracks all hovering around three minutes – a brief tasting menu of his sweetly poetic and deeply personal brand of hip-hop.
Three different producers contribute: Yagi, a Japanese producer; Dustin Laurenzi, a young up and coming Chicago jazz saxophonist and beatmaker; and Cy, a producer from the small L.A. label El Sereno Records. Although none of the beats were produced specifically for this EP, Al succeeds in gathering a perfect bouquet of instrumentals to rhyme over, each one distinct enough from the last while still having enough in common to create a strong sense of cohesion. Each track builds a smooth but rhythmic atmosphere that perfectly complements his sing-song flow and amiable lyricism.
A short guitar lick, accompanied by crackles and pops, invites the listener into the opening track “Sky +raps.” On it, Yagi crafts a beat from just a few samples: an enchanting vocal and guitar loop, as well as a chopped-up yet supremely laid-back drum track. After a few bars, Al begins rapping in wordy non-sequiturs, and like most of the songs on the EP, rides from verse to verse without anything resembling a chorus or classic song structure. Subsequent track “Tomorrow + raps” features some of the best lyrics of the record. With each line, Al illustrates the nature of the world in which he lives: “Building luxury out of bricks of unwashed laundry / I’m not lost, I’m wandering / [… ]Cheez Whiz, empty fridge and smelly kids.” He raps over the song’s soft guitar loop with poignant certainty, displaying a clear awareness of himself and how he lives: “I don’t travel much I only pivot. I don’t haggle much, I’d rather give it. Spend a lot of time practicing physics.”
On the remarkable beat of “Space + raps,” Laurenzi layers glitchy chirping over a backdrop of soft, echo-heavy chords which roll in gentle waves through the ears. Al’s rhymes match this trancelike quality with absent-minded mumbles about eating “tapioca,” and “okra,” as well as needing to run over to A&P to buy some Arizona Iced Tea with the “quarters on the dashboard.” These conversational lines eventually transition into light scatting as the song comes to a close.
Ultimately, this EP offers well-built beats, self-aware, expressive lyricism, and a distinct cohesiveness which neatly ties its six tracks together. In just seventeen minutes, Alex Kollman has managed to put together a great record while simultaneously coming across as humble, friendly, and quirky - an immensely likeable character.
Download Resltless at his Bandcamp for free.
Yagi’s beats can be found at his Soundcloud.
Cy’s beats can be found at his Soundcloud.
Dustin Laurenzi’s music can be found at his website.