Sunday Review: Lakutis’ 3 Seashells and His Moment in the Sun

Blog rap means a variety of things to different people. Twitter can often be nostalgic for the time when a rapper’s rise felt more personal and a handful of tastemaking blogs were instrumental in pushing the culture forward. While we tend to look back on it with rosy glasses the blog era undoubtedly contributed to the polarization of music criticism that plagues both musicians and writers to this day. Everyone remembers a young Tyler the Creator’s chants of FUCK TWODOPEBOYZ for writing him off, both iconic of the era and impossible to imagine a rapper doing today. On the opposite side of that vitriol were indie darlings that blogs could not get enough of such as hipster leaning rap act Das Racist who were based out of NYC.  Lakutis was the crew’s right hand man, contributing guest verses, touring with DR, and lending the group his party animal tour de force. Kutis had a raw edge to him that felt more rock star than rapper, with his long hair, leather jacket, and stage presence leading to Danzig comparisons. He could bring the hype while still dropping complex worldplay, holding his own and arguably outrapping many of his peers on his guest spots. My first exposure to Lakutis was his guest verse on Das Racist’s “Rapping 2 U”. Lakutis’ supreme confidence to the point of nonchalance is what made him stand out from the pack. On “Rappin 2 U” he barges onto the track with a long “yeeeeeeaaaaaaah” that shakes the room word to Pop Smoke (R.I.P). Starting a verse proclaiming himself “Sexy Lexi” is a G-move and if you disagree stop reading now. He flows over the beat like a vet and has endless non-sequiturs. It’s ironic based idiot rap in the best way possible.

Cover of I’m in the Forest

Lakutis dropped his debut EP, I’m in the Forest, in December 2011. I’m in the Forest is a tight and bright EP where, to quote its’ BandCamp page, “Lakutis funnels his love of NY Hardcore Punk, handball, Demolition Man, ”real hip-hop”, 90s fighting robot cartoon Bots Master, and various other cultural artifacts into one tightly wound EP.” The page goes on further to describe I’m In the Forest’s inception, noting, “But during Das Racist’s meteoric rise to the top of the internet, Lakutis was honing his death freak and getting in touch with his inner blood eagle,” which seemed incredibly badass and hilarious at the time and now feels incredibly 2012, though the short tape lives up to that description. For anyone who got to Twitter late it’s probably difficult to imagine, but at the time Das Racist really did feel like they were at the top of the internet and were a potential next vanguard of rap who had set the blogs ablaze and were due for the charts next. They had got a New York Times feature or two and were on top of the world. While their equal willingness to reference Kierkegaard and Aqua Teen Hunger Force coupled with their extremely self aware and self referential senses of humor caused many to cast them as rap’s equivalent to Cheech and Chong, it was clear they were resonating. Lakutis felt like the consigliere to a burgeoning empire.

Lakutis followed up I’m in the Forest with his stellar debut LP and only proper album to date, 3 Seashells. Released in 2014 it has a little bit of everything that makes the man captivating. Lakutis’s speedball raps and jokes smack you over the head. 3 Seashell’s opening track “What the Fuck” feels like an Acme cartoon five seconds before something’s about to blow up. This track begins with Lakutis characterizing himself as a Skeleton pronounced Skeletawn. “Fuck with no rubber catch a Batman Forever!” is definitely the best bar on this track, both hilarious and an insane cultural deep cut. Obscure references like these are what made me dig Lakutis in the first place. He does not care if what he’s saying is going over your head and even if it is you can occupy yourself with his flow and the overall soundscape of the trap. You can listen mindlessly or dissect what he has to say. Encouraging safe sex and mosh pits is a big W. The chanting chorus that connects the infectiousness of “What the Fuck” is reminsecent of Enter the 36 Chambers type hooks. The next track “Animal” hits you with a one-two punch. This track feels like it was made to soundtrack the slow motion scene in Project X. The opening chords make me want to break shit to be honest. It’s almost like a demented version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. Outside of references, Lakutis shows his talents for multi-syllabics on this track as well rapping, “Stomp you out with some now or later shoes, now or later choose, violator proof.” “Jesus Piece” melts away that party atmosphere for something way darker and otherworldly. 

Steeltippeddove really went the fuck off with production throughout this project. He did not produce the whole tape, but I feel like many of the producers were working in tandem because the project as a whole is very cohesive. Every project needs its own ‘fuck 12’ track and Lakutis delivers with “Too Ill for Law”. Lakutis saying he’s on “self imposed house arrest” is much too close to home now.  His “Drink a gun butt with a bullet chaser,” allegory is a baby shoes for sale never worn tier short story. Lakutis saying wild motherfucker over and over reminds me of MGK yelling how he’s a wild boy but not annoying, whiny, and ass. In a just world he’d be making decent indie comedies with Pete Davidson instead of him. Lakutis was simply too ahead of the curve. I hear aspects of his music in a lot of soundscapes today from the new school of alt-rap coming out of NY. Lakutis still manages to make his aggressiveness catchy. I dare you to bump Mumra a few times and not hum it to yourself for days to come. This is why I felt Lakutis could potentially shoot past his contemporaries. It would take cyberpunk scream rap like three more years to break through. Beneath his gruffness I also saw a potential popstar in Lakutis, and it is a shame he never had the opportunities to reach those heights because the talent is clearly there. 

 A track titled “Dope as Fuck” would probably lead you to believe its about the said rapper flexing but Lakutis kind of comes off as a motivational speaker here. Sure he’s dope as fuck, but so are you and anybody that says they are. He almost orders you to not let anyone fuck with you, kinda coming off like a stern dad that instead of going to the school to take care of your bullies just teaches you how to fuck someone up.  But of couse Lakutis can’t go a track without saying something hilarious so he had to slip, “Got no condom fuck a condom we can use just whats around,” in there. His personality shines through on most things he does. I thought 3 Seashells was Lakutis’s arrival. It got a solid review in Pitchfork, props from Consequence of Sound, and Vice even wrote an article about how cool and different a dude Lakutis is, but the blog stimulus package wasn’t enough. 

A smiling Lakutis borrowed from his BandCamp

2014, the year 3 Seashells dropped, was the beginning of a seachange in rap and the entire music industry. Musicians were moving away from mixtapes and consumers were not  really illegally downloading stuff anymore. Streaming finally became the most convenient option as services like Beats Music, which would turn into Apple Music, launched and Spotify gained more and more traction by the day. Services like BandCamp would fall to the wayside and many rappers who did not adapt to the new emphasis on streaming would be lost with their digital footprints only remaining on YouTube and Mediafire links that faded into history. Blogs lost their grip on what became popping as people started flocking towards social media and finding new music that way. People at the time were way more likely to tell you they heard some song off Vine than Pigeons & Planes. The scene Lakutis was a part of took a hit as well with many artists like Das Racist falling to the wayside when it seemed they would only grow more and more. Some contemporaries like Action Bronson were able to adjust and pivot into more success but he’s a rare case, and many of his best mixtapes still not being on streaming services is a reminder of Bronson’s roots.  I imagined that I would be soundtracking my pre-games and post-games with Lakutis tracks and videos for years to come, I can’t tell you how sad it makes me when I look him up on YouTube only to see all the videos that pop up are over five years of age and only growing older. He hosted a now defunct and impossible to find podcast named “U Got It” with Das Racist hypeman Dapwell. More recently he’s been doing the Chillin Island podcast with both Dapwell and fellow NYC rap legend Despot which I highly recommend if you’re searching for new music.  While Lakutis is a lost icon of the blog era, he showed that he can still drop heat whenever he feels like it, as he did on the chorus for Wiki’sNutcrackers”. But that feature didn’t satiate my hunger as much as it left me fiending for a new Lakutis tape and wondering what direction he’d take it in. Luckily I’ll always have 3 Seashells to fall back into.

While his catalog is not on streaming services you can buy his EP and LP on BandCamp and follow Lakutis on Twitter or Instagram.

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