Rap is a young person’s game. Among the most exciting waves in the genre right now is undoubtedly the loosely affiliated DIY/lo-fi/underground rap scene, chocked full of talented musicians on the right side of 25 making music outside the gaze of the major label system. Characterized by tight sample loops and introspective bars on the triumphs and tribulations of being young and Black in the United States, this burgeoning movement has produced some of the most promising and thoughtful rappers out right now. While the loosely tied scene’s leaders are young in their own right, with MIKE and Mavi both releasing watershed albums at the tender age of 20, they have already started to inspire the crop of kids coming up behind them.
Diz is a rapper, a producer, a saxophonist, and a seventeen-year-old senior in high school from Boston, MA. He’s spent his high school years making tunes that reflect those cold New England winters and that are inspired by rappers like MIKE, Mavi, and Earl Sweatshirt who he hopes to convert from idols to peers. He caught the ear of Oakland’s ovrkast who produced his excellent single “When Love Calls My Name” which dropped earlier this year, a gorgeous track that is as introspective as it is catchy. Diz wanted to keep his forward momentum from “When Love Calls My Name” moving and had nothing but time to record during quarantine. He wanted to utilize all of his musical talents on his next project to show people the full breadth of his powers, and that lead to his latest album, Black Water.
Diz shows he is a man wise beyond his years on Black Water. He has clearly been through quite a bit in his short life and has the perspective and self-awareness of a man twice, hell maybe three times his age. On early album highlight “Balance/Orlackthereof” he raps about how his life has gotten too out of sorts of late. He has made some regrettable decisions due to unfortunate circumstances outside of his control and is in the process of learning their lessons. What he realizes is that more than anything Diz needs to settle down and balance himself out. He can be hard on himself at times, often lamenting using weed and alcohol to numb his pain, but his willingness to confront his demons shows more strength than it does weakness. Diz is a multidimensional artist and produced the majority of the album himself. While he usually opts for sparse drums, on “Balance” there is a thumping beat that drives the track forward. The beat, the bright guitar loop, and the highly pitched up soul sample give “Balance” the most energy of any track on the tape. That being said the song is a perfect tone setter for an album jam packed with contemplative bars over well chopped samples. Diz’s production work is impressive throughout Black Water with pitched up, diced, and looped samples that are as catchy as they are enigmatic. Not only did Diz produce the majority of the album however, the man broke out the saxophone for a handful of tracks. On “To See is to Believe” Diz invites Carlos Gomez and fellow Illegal Advisory crew member Ziggy to rap about their struggles and how they plan on overcoming them over his ethereal and haunting saxophone. The track feels like Diz is soundtracking his own film noir, as the sax, the slow rolling drum, and spooky keys feel like they’re driving a hazy, suspicious fog into town. He closes the album with “Rain Water” where Diz tenderly plays the sax over a peaceful if not a tad downtrodden piano loop. Its similarly cinematic; As the sax washes right over you like the titular rain water you can imagine Diz meandering through Boston Common looking for answers and a good place to play his instrument. Producing the album himself is impressive enough, but the addition of the saxophone gives Diz another layer of artistry that sets him apart from his peers. Every song that features the sax is better for it, and I for one hope he finds more ways to rap over live instrumentation as he continues to grow in his career.
While I don’t think that Diz named his album for Erik Prince’s rogue mercenary unit of the same name, on Black Water the young man from Boston brought enough heat for ten militias. While he has is fair share of personal issues, his willingness to look within in an attempt to get better shows preternatural maturity levels, and his beat making is on par with some producers who have been working longer than he’s been alive. With Black Water Diz artist proved he has as much potential as the rappers who inspired him, and luckily for us all they all have long roads ahead.