Philly rapper and producer Lushlife (Rajesh Haldar) may be the best kept secret of independent hip hop. His debut mixtape No More Golden Days (you can grab it for free right here) was one of the best hip hop releases of 2011, featuring guest spots by Heems, Cities Aviv, and others. Lushlife came out of the woodwork with a style entirely unto himself, with samples ranging from Flying Lotus to Katy Perry. His blend of psychedelic texture and 90s drums and beats makes for a chilled-out but contemplative experience. Name dropping Joy Division, Jesus & Mary Chain, and Zola Jesus among others, Haldar established his Lushlife stage presence as a distinct character, drawing from different influences for his production and melodies. With his debut LP, Plateau Vision, Lushlife builds on the strengths started on No More Golden Days to make a unique but accessible hip hop record that you could listen to all day.
More than anything else, Plateau Vision shows off Lushlife’s eclectic love for different sounds and beats. Album opener “Magnolia” starts with a gorgeous harp sample and dips into early 2000s electronic jazz. “Still I Hear The Word Progress” has a heavy chiptune synth lead and the skittering march drum in the background is somewhat reminiscent of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”. With “The Romance of the Telescope”, Lushlife could start a chillwave career alongside Washed Out and Toro Y Moi (and yes, the title is an OMD reference). Then, album single “Big Sur” has a live jazz band sample that bounces back and forth with a string section. And all that’s only four tracks in! Musically, Haldar loves his textures, but each track is entirely unique to his own style, and the flow from one track to the next is unbeatable.
Lyrically, several themes and styles echo across Plateau Vision. As this is a debut LP, Haldar is evidently trying to establish himself as a distinct voice. Naturally, as is typical with many first hip hop albums, Lushlife is creating a foundation for himself. He’s getting you used to his vibe and he’s introducing his own motifs. The strongest of these motifs is Haldar’s uniquely positive view of the world and of mankind. Through ethereal psychedelic imagery and metaphors, Haldar raps about living and loving life, working through the difficult times, and looking forward to being with the ones you love and listening to the records that make everything better. Lushlife is a relatable character, and Haldar doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. But that may be another one of the things that makes Lushlife so easy to dig.
Much like No More Golden Days, Plateau Vision sees a handful of features and cameos. The beautiful, drumless “Gymnopedie 1.2″ features Canadian rapper Shad on a nearly spoken word thinker, and “Hale-Bopp Was The Bedouins” welcomes Das Racist’s Heems back into the Lushlife fray for one of the darkest and most danceable tracks on the album. But Plateau Vision is undoubtedly a Lushlife album, and the collaborations add to his presence rather than take away from the focus.
Plateau Vision is a refreshing record, and is a must have fans of eclectic music. It is available now on CD and vinyl at your local record store. Over 44 minutes, Haldar crafts a near perfect label debut for himself, and we can only hope that the record will attract the attention it deserves. Lushlife is on tour through the month of May, but has not posted a Seattle date yet. Check back to his Facebook occasionally and be sure to listen to is recent live session on KEXP from the Cutting Room Studios in NYC here.