From his modest South Philadelphia recording space, emcee/producer/multi-instrumentalist Lushlife has been quietly crafting some of the most inventive and well-regarded hip-hop records of the last several years. On his latest release, a limited-edition cassette/digital offering called, No More Golden Days, Lush explores increasingly eccentric sonic territory, still effortlessly engaging listeners with his undeniable pop sensibilities and classic east coast flow.
His last full-length, Cassette City (!K7 Records), a forward-thinking LP that expertly matched classic ‘90s boom-bap with orchestral pop arrangements and indie experimentation, made countless year-end lists in 2009. Lushlife spent much of the following year on-the-road in Europe and the US, where he began to slowly imagine the underpinnings for his next artistic statement.
With No More Golden Days, Lushlife settled on the mixtape as his chosen platform for expression. “I’ve always been hesitant to do a mixtape,” he explains. “I felt like they were too often perceived as an insignificant promotional vehicle or something. But, while I was out playing shows last year, and kind of yearning to get back in the lab, I started to see the medium totally differently: as a blank canvas, open for total expression, unencumbered by a lot of the business bullshit that I’d dealt with producing Cassette City.”
That sense of freedom comes across immediately. Clearly the work of an artist interested in conveying feeling through sound, No More Golden Days ebbs-and-flows like a classic DJ blend tape. Lushlife deftly moves from the same hip-hop instrumentals you’ll hear on Top 40 radio, to narcotic arrangements of mid-‘80s synth-pop jams. He recontextualizes modern indie records with an undeniable swagger, and then spits thoroughly over his own jaw-dropping productions.
And while this mixtape isn’t bloated with guests, each featured artist does bring fresh energy to the program. At one moment, Heems of Das Racist trades sixteens with Lush on a mystic-sounding Gang Gang Dance edit, and in the next, former Titus Andronicus member, Andrew Cedermark is crooning away on a Lushlife rerub of OMD’s The Romance of the Telescope. The list of artists that contributed their considerable talents to No More Golden Days includes: Dice Raw, STS, QuESt, Cities Aviv, Brown Recluse, Sun Glitters and others.
It’s obvious that every millisecond of No More Golden Days is carefully executed to emote precisely what Lushlife wants you to feel. “I guess at its core, Golden Days is built on a sense of Impressionism,” he reflects. “I wanted to make the listener feel certain complex feelings, but also somehow sidestep the direct musical routes for eliciting those feelings. Like, for example, I don’t want to directly remind you of your favorite Rakim or Beach Boys record. I just want to try and use everything at my disposal to give you a little bit of the feeling you got, the first time you ever heard those records.”
Whether he’s flipping pop starlet Katy Perry into a blissed-out whip-banger, or rapping on blown-out Clams Casino instrumentals, Lushlife is seemingly pushing the listener toward some gauzy autumn night in his mind, with each successive track on this mixtape. So, ultimately, No More Golden Days is not simply a work of post-millenial genre-hopping. Instead, its strength can be found in Lushlife’s unique ability to make Dilla, Katy Perry, Slowdive, and Drake feel like they’re part of one strangely, but perfectly-connected lineage.