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Artists Worth Checking Out; Aspartame Kills

Dope friends
















The thing about hip-hop is, it’s everywhere. While the majority of the people that I know reject the genre as a whole, no matter where you turn, you cannot escape it. Jay-Z’s mediocre new album is currently ruling the world, and Kanye West has sold out a line of what are effectively white T-Shirts. You can find rappers, producers, groups, everywhere you turn. People may think that there is a way to avoid it, places where hip hop will not bubble up, but those places are dying off and changing, fast. Case in point; suburban Ohio.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the great state of Ohio (For a while, I thought I would be going to college there) but it’s not the place that anyone would enter looking for anything that resembles hip hop. But Brian Smith is changing that.

I have known Brian Smith for my entire life. Our fathers we’re college roommates, and I have seen him at least once a year for each of the 18 years of my existence. For the entirety of that time, I’ve been trying (and failing) to surpass him musically. His skills as a songwriter and as an instrumentalist have challenged and motivated me to varying capacities over the years, but I have to admit he threw me for a loop when he told me he had formed Aspartame Kills.

Aspartame Kills (great name, by the way) is the combination of Smith behind the mic, and Dan Willis behind the beats. At this point in time, they have released two 7’’, an LP, and a single. Each release has been better than the next.

Both of the artists behind the music have very distinctive voices, both in rhyme and production style. Willis’ beats cant help but create their own comparisons; the seasick shuffling of Shabazz Palaces and the jazzy intensity of Madlib, to name a few, but at the end of the day, his voice comes through in the hard-hitting percussion, 8-bit synths, and the versatility of style. Smith, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. His flow, while slick and versatile, is also completely metric. Imagine a much easier to listen to Danny Brown. The lyrics are dense and complicated, and the delivery is a thrill to listen to. Check out the gymnastic assonance on the self titled LP’s opening track, “Children of Ohio”, in which Smith actually goes through the chemical process of making aspartame before breaking into an impressive volley of wordplay, and “Deadfish”, a dark narrative filled with vivid images and an incredible coda of mixed-meter wordsmithery.

A lot of this music feels like an inside joke, something only the Children of Ohio would understand, but, through the lens of Smith and Willis, their world is more vivid. Ohio feels like something it’s never been before; a battlefield, a world of pain, a world of rapture, a place filled with secrets and life, and most importantly, a place where you can find some dope hip-hop

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