One minute into Rascal EP, 19-year-old Boston hip-hop producer SenecaB’s latest release, you get the idea that she has something to say about city life. The opener, “After Visiting,” offers a potent Nas sample along with muted keys, beautiful pads, and old-school percussion. “Life’s a bitch, and then you die.” Backed by SenecaB’s production, it is the first of several lyrics that characterize Rascal.

Vocals come in the same way throughout the rest of the EP. On “Shook,” a harp and strings back a Mobb Deep sample that repeats, “Sometimes I wonder, do I deserve to live?” Moments like these are where Rascal is most powerful. SenecaB skillfully reframes hip hop on her own terms, and the chopped vocals give her beats an edge. Her production feels like a less mutilated, more laid back Burial, and working in a style that can often feel empty, Rascal is full of brooding emotion.

However, the EP falters when its vocals become more elaborate. On “Neina” and “Beef,” SenecaB pulls full verses from rappers Guru and Mos Def. Of the two, “Beef” stands out for its clever arrangement, varied percussion, and processed vocals that push the song forward. Even then, it feels like the verses are borrowed too directly. Placed in the center of the EP, these tracks lack the nuance of the openers.

Nevertheless, with “Painting” and “Rascal,” the EP ends strong. “Painting” revolves around chopped R&B vocals, a delicate arrhythmic beat, and a muted trumpet that expands to a siren. The soulful organ chords of “Rascal” lift the tone from dark to hopeful. Here we get one of the EP’s few uplifting lyrics from The Notorious B.I.G.: “Damn right I like the life I live / Cause I went from negative to positive.” This is exactly what Rascal does.

For the most part, SenecaB gives Rascal meaning while keeping its samples simple. It feels like reflections of a troubled metropolis: grieving, sometimes chill, and ultimately hopeful. Instead of a political statement, each song is a vignette, and lines like “I’ve fallen and I can’t turn back” reflect protests with a softer twist. Altogether, Rascal is less like a revolution and more like a lonely municipal bus ride the night before.

Album Review: SenecaB - Rascal EP
Pros
  • Beautiful, dense production
  • Beats are familiar, but varied and nuanced
  • Clever lyrical samples
Cons
  • “Neina” and “Beef” borrow heavily
  • Mood shift towards the end is sudden
7Late Night Hip Hop

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