If there’s one thing surely all of us can agree on in 2021, it’s that we don’t need anymore stress. At least thematically, perhaps only a few genres have suffered more than hip hop during the COVID era: aggression and flossing about wealth suddenly held little appeal to the majority of folk stuck in perilous circumstances. Droves of listeners are flailing about in hopes of something that speaks to their new reality or, even more simply, in search of something cozier.
Enter YUNGMORPHEUS & Eyedress. They seem unlikely collaborators on paper; hailing from Manila in the Philippines, Eyedress largely made his name with last year’s Let’s Skip to the Wedding, a brazen mixture of post-punk and bedroom pop that had far more in common with Beach Fossils than the low key brand of rap YUNGMORPHEUS deals in. Yet, his success in that arena belies Eyedress’ earlier interests in Cloud rap. It turns out he’s an absolutely deft hand in dealing out hazy beats that sound like they’re drifting in from somewhere out of sight, distant, yet omnipresent: the sort of beats that YUNGMORPHEUS floats over.
The rapper has been on the come up for years now, first truly catching eyes when he linked up with Pink Siifu in 2019 for Bag Talk. Yet, without a doubt, this has been his most visible, hard working year to date. Affable with Pointed Teeth is his third project of 2021, and easily his strongest – no small statement, given the quality of his link up in March with the Premier-esque ewonee for Thumbing Thru Foliage.
However, that album often felt like more of a showcase for the production than anything else, with YUNGMORPHEUS taking almost a supporting role in affairs. Affable With Pointed Teeth finds two artists entirely, perfectly attuned to each other.
Eyedress’ work is confident, even supreme, but never showy, the ideal companion to YUNGMORPHEUS’ nonchalant delivery. His is a flow so effortless that it can sneak up on you: sometimes resembling an even more laidback Curren$y, Morpheus never expresses overly much concern about what he’s saying, and, particularly when joined with Eyedress’ equally snug production, the harsh realities he’s delving in can be so subtle as to take a few listens to properly hit you. Yet, you’ll find, once you’re locked in, you’re in: it’s confident aggression tempered by a smoked out nonchalance, by all appearances simply going about his day, even when he’s celebrating the deaths of racist cops.
The project establishes itself entirely within its very first moments. Once you’re through an intro of sampled dialogue, things serenely drift right into “Red Spheres”, an incredibly gentle sampled loop laying the listener in a bed of sound. YUNGMORPHEUS, for his part, instantly recognizes just how lovely it all his; the very first words he utters on Affable with Pointed Teeth are, “This shit sound like I’m home.” It truly does.
Therein lies the foggy, patient power of the album: as the title readily acknowledges, it invites you right through the door, offers you a comfortable spot on the couch, and then sinks its sinewy jaws in. Still, if it’s venomous, it’s delightfully numbing. Few hip hop albums this year have felt so patient, so welcoming. It’s a bastion for a clouded mind, a sort of salve to whatever ails you in a given day.
That it includes a track titled “Nkisi Nkondi” is no mistake. Named for a traditional “power figure”, or spirit, hailing from the Congo, it represents the soulful identity of the album, even betwixt the barbs YUNGMORPHEUS chooses to shoot over it (“I had to seperate myself from some people, because they was foolish / I heard your cousin talkin’ bout guns, but he’d never shoot it”). The album also finds YUNGMORPHEUS name dropping the likes of Mansa Musa and Alice Coltrane rather than a Big Meech or Raekwon. Beyond often being surprising and refreshing in an often predictable climate, it just goes to show his headspace and his ambition.
Boiled down to its essential parts, even given YUNGMORPHEUS‘ time spent, it feels like an arrival. While his delivery has, at times in the past, left him feeling like a rapper in the passenger seat, Eyedress’ production finally gives him just the roost he needed to take full control. It bears repeating: there’s no moment across Affable with Pointed Teeth in which the two don’t perfectly complement each other, both so laid back that they nearly seem to be ready to drift off in the booth. From “Red Spheres” to the closing moments, and playful synths, of “My Hands”, it lulls the listener into a space of contemplation and security that is much the same. YUNGMORPHEUS knows exactly what it’s taken to get to this point, and exactly where it leaves him: “I’m on the cusp of somethin’ great my n***a, it’s about time.”