Hip-hop is one of the most popular genres in music right now; the likes of Drake and Kanye West are some of the world’s most prominent celebrities, topping the charts and influencing material in genres a far reaching and jazz and indie rock. Not bad for the music of the underdog. But by its very make-up, it’s one of the most democratic also –all you need is a mic and a beat tape, and as such it’s one of the most oversaturated forms of music around. Sorting the wheat from the chaff means new talents can often go unnoticed amongst the tide. That shouldn’t happen to foster.

Twenty six year old New York rapper foster. has just dropped Free Lunch: A Microtape, his second album in three months – and despite being an itty bitty project, the undiscovered rapper shows a great deal of versatility, intellect and talent. There are but eight songs on the project, most of them barely three minutes in length, but for a project this brief is a savvy move – from each snippet foster. establishes quickly all he has to offer.

Despite being an east coast MC, it’s clear which side of the continent foster. takes his influences from, and it’s not his home state. The music of Kanye West informs so much of foster.’s work here, from the claim on ‘Rain or Shine’ that “this is that old school College Dropout shit” to the ‘All Fall Down’ “huh?” and the sway-referencing “you ain’t got the answers!” But this isn’t a rip-off by any means, it just comes from that place, and given the quality of Kanye’s music; I have no complaints. It also fun for young hip-hop heads to have rappers now referencing the classics they came up on, not just the 90’s classics those albums referenced. It’s clear foster. has a wider palate than Kanye or just hip-hop though – Radiohead and Jack White both get shout-outs on the first track.

As well as a lyrical talent, foster. displays a level of flow which wipes the floor with the likes of Future and Young Thug

This first song ‘Five Years Later’ kick-starts this collection’s topicality – a penchant for calling out fakery in hip-hop – a topic you may have noticed erupting around a certain artist called Drake. Not only are the bars on this song alone better than any on Drake’s last album, foster. also puts the spotlight on the overlooked wordsmiths who those who deploy ghost-writers take away from; “five years watching famous rapper take praise for all your ideas” he says. On ‘Rain and Shine’ he does the same, spitting “copy and paste verses, purchase the hook and the bridge and in the end the only thing they never took is a risk.’ Damn.

‘JFK’ may be the best track here – on it foster. shows off his political savvy too, deploying in one track more insight than on the whole of supposedly political Yeezus. “Media see the audience as a target… controlling minds disguised as brand recognition” and the hard truth about why these things go unchanged: “hard to give a fuck about the powers that be, when you’re working like 70, 80 hours a week.” I hope that when foster. does get bigger he won’t sacrifice moments like this.

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As well as a lyrical talent, foster. displays a level of flow which, as he points out, really wipes the floor with the moan-rapping likes of Future and Young Thug – ‘Rain or Shine’ might sound as beauteous as a Kanye joint but his flow reminds of Childish Gambino on this one. At other times he channels ChyHi, but his boldest and most original flow comes across on ‘Patience’ where he drops a booming and ear-grabbing cadence… I guess you could say he sounds like foster.

His beat selection is also on point for this tape; ‘DYLA’ featuring a low-end warbling male vocal sample which is broke by the kick drum – creating a sober but powerful rhythm. On the final track ‘Know Yourself’ he also shows himself to be capable of crafting longer, more ambitious songs; with the hook “know yourself” sounding like something Chance would put on his tapes; and it’s drawn out resolution stays engaging throughout.

The only cliché foster. ever falls into is the braggadocio; claiming to have made it when still starting out can only sound fake; he’d be better focussing on lines like “I know you wondering how he ain’t signed yet…” which are more true to life, and make a good point. There’s also slightly too much of a fixation with the faults of the industry, and there’s a danger he could spend too much time complaining and not making it clear how he could change that. But hey, that’s fine, he’s just starting out – this is only free lunch; when his next project drops, we’ll really be eating.

Hear the mixtape here http://www.audiomack.com/album/foster-4/free-lunch-a-microtape

Liam Inscoe – Jones

Liam is currently listening to ‘Rodondo Beach’ by Patti Smith

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