R.A.P Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura – The First Fist To Make Contact When We Dap

311

The album works on two levels: in the shallows it’s expertly produced, pleasant to the ear, and flows from track to track in an interesting and captivating way. What lies undeniably under the surface, like gators in a lagoon, is the complexity of Ferreira’s storytelling and lyrical mastery. These two listening experiences work in tandem, either letting me relax and enjoy it in blissful, appropriate ignorance, or grabbing me by the collar, shaking me and demanding I dig deeper into the record’s prophetic truth.

Artist Name: R.A.P Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura

Release Title: “The First Fist To Make Contact When We Dap”

Label: Ruby Yacht & Alpha Pup

Release Date: January 26, 2024

Location: Nashville Tennessee

Written by Tony Le Calvez

Twitter: @hipcatscience

It’s difficult to piece together the mind of a poet, especially when they’re working on as many levels as R.A.P. Ferreira, which was a sentiment shared by many when Ferreira dropped his first album in 2020, “Purple Moonlight Pages.” Ferreira wasn’t the first poet/rapper to emerge from the new and evolving world of abstract, experimental hip hop: Open Mike Eagle, Moor Mother, and Billy Woods, contemporaries of Ferreira, have and continue to push the genre and create exemplary work in the medium, but Ferreira is easily proving to be just as good as any of them.

Listening to “the First Fist to Make Contact When We Dap” is like trying to piece together the pieces of a dream when I am still residing between being asleep and awake. Like hallucinatory puzzle pieces, the fragments of the dream are vivid and tangible (“I’m hearing color and living sound”), but when I try to grasp them, the completeness of the dream escapes me and I am left with nothing but the soot-stained shadows of the dream burnt onto the walls of my brain. All I can do is decipher the shadows as if I’m listening to this record from deep within Plato’s cave.

On this new record, Ferreira has teamed up with Japanese producer, Fumitake Tamura, to create what I think to be Ferreira’s best album since Purple Moonlight Pages. Whether it’s Tamura’s influence or Ferreira riding a wave of inspiration, this project is the most progressive, innovative, and pointed effort for Ferreira since his 2020 album, and I attribute Ferreira’s creative success to his collaboration with Tamura; Tamura’s instrumentals have rendered for Ferreira a horizon to sit on, as if he were a hot sun showering the wide land in the light of his linguistic brilliance.

A painter  once told me that it’s composition that does all the work, but color gets all of the credit; I think this sentiment is also applicable for this record. Tamura’s ghostly and abstract instrumentals construct a stage and props from which Ferreira can perform and illuminate his listeners with lyrical color. The beats are stylistically consistent, working from the same tonal palette, as well as unique and enveloping. They almost all feature a warm fuzz to them that I would denote as a Lo-Fi aesthetic if they weren’t so meticulously and carefully crafted; there’s nothing “Lo” quality about them.

Eclectic voice audio samples and flourishing pianos weave in and out of the sparse percussion, and miscellaneous noise tickle the edges of the almost-vaporwave soundscape; despite their loose fittings, all the sounds tie together to support Ferreira’s thematic vision. The creative relationship between the two is successfully symbiotic and Tamura’s work enhances the slivers of clairvoyance in Ferreira’s dense lyricism. And it is DENSE.

Nothing makes me want to return to an album more than when I’m faced with a complete lack of understanding by the end of it. I catch glimpses of what Ferreira is saying, but only enough to recognize that there is significantly more to digest beyond my comprehension and that Ferreira has no time to waste on plugging the holes of my ignorance. This album is jam-packed with allusions and metaphors that flew right over my head or played around with me, until I thought I understood them, and then kicked me to the curb. Ferreira invokes images of Apollonia and AI, of Magnolias and Moses, and the crashing of hammers in Vulcan’s forge, “Bang bang goes the blacksmith’s hammer again.”

With Wikipedia open next to me I can begin to decipher the multitude of references and invocations, but the deeper I dive into the context, the farther away I am from understanding. There is no single answer as to what the album is about or what it’s trying to communicate , but it beckons to me to try and understand every facet and avenue of its intent. I imagine I could listen to it a hundred times and walk away with even more theories about its meaning than I have now.

From track to track and bar to bar, Ferreira loosely builds these complex images to tell his stories, but the connections are loose and  non-transitive; it’s incredibly difficult to follow and the album is generally hard, if not impossible, to digest all at once. Even on repeated listenings I struggle to follow the trails Ferreira is paving, let alone tie the ideas into clear, traceable messages. Ferreira openly addresses he speaks a different language when he addresses the language barrier he has constructed on “begonias,” he confesses, “Can’t speak my mother tongue, had to become a poet and invent one.”

But like all great art, the album is loaded with universal truths that are waiting to be deciphered, evident by the split-second clarity and didacticism of lyrics like the climactic lines in “elite mind flayer judo,” “Spent my twenties arguing with God/ now I knowingly nod as stress presses the fault line into view/ the fault was often mine and that was how I grew.” In these brief, scattered moments Ferreira grants the listener a glimmer of what the message is, but he quickly transitions into his next idea, delving deeper into mystery than clarity.

While Ferreira and Tamura drive the entire album, there are a handful of excellent features on the record that round out the sound and provide additional layers to the narrative. Self Jupiter brings a leathery deep voice to the mix, with a disjointed flow that reminds me stylistically of Virginia Woolf’s “stream-of-consciousness” writing. ELDON, who previously appeared with Ferreira on his 2021 release, “Bob’s Son,” delivers an excellent verse that sounds like a stylistic cross between Little Simz and Moor Mother. Hprizm and sha ray both bring some much appreciated charisma with their features, with my only complaint being that I wish sha ray’s feature was longer.

Ultimately, the album works on two levels: in the shallows it’s expertly produced, pleasant to the ear, and flows from track to track in an interesting and captivating way. What lies undeniably under the surface, like gators in a lagoon, is the complexity of Ferreira’s storytelling and lyrical mastery. These two listening experiences work in tandem, either letting me relax and enjoy it in blissful, appropriate ignorance, or grabbing me by the collar, shaking me and demanding I dig deeper into the record’s prophetic truth. At the moment I can still jump between the two, but Ferreira’s grip is like iron and ultimately I always land in between, watching shadows on the wall.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *