While many underground rappers succeed by carving out their own essence of newness within the scene, others push the boundaries of experimentation even further. After relentlessly posting material over the past two years, Charlotte, North Carolina’s $igil is earning the status of a genre-bending gem as he begins his U.S. run with Omen XIII. As a sum of his parts, the rapper’s best asset is the challenge he presents to listeners. Just when you think you have his point of view figured out, he disappears in smoke just to re-emerge with an aura of a different color.
While the collective litany of influences housed on Soundcloud arguably requires a degree of open mindedness, $igil leaves little choice in the matter, ripping your mind open and injecting hard questions, grave undertones, and brilliant atmosphere. It is, indeed, the limitlessness of the universe that seems to simultaneously keep $igil creative and grounded. It’s hard to settle on one spot when you’re busy journeying across the cosmos, but it’s easier to cope with pain through associated spiritual escapism. By planting the seeds of mental liberation, $igil achieves his self-professed goal of helping himself alongside extending a guiding hand to his listeners.
Starting strong in 2016 with ten-track mixtape Spaced Out, $igil asserts a haunting honesty of operatic echos and banging rhythm, spawning a 90’s symphonic metal/00’s trap love child. Early single Kingdom displays his place within a post-$uicideboy$ world coupled with the no-frills realism of growing up in suburban stifling. Professing his preference to “take control of my body and soul” over religious lies, the young rapper only peaks up periodically from the shag struggling to be contained by an L.A. snapback. There is a certain comfort and approachability in the fact that he looks like someone you could have gone to high school with; it creates a willingness to actually pull up a chair and listen, as opposed to the alienating aesthetic extremism for extremism’s sake found in other Cloud rap come-ups.
As $igil has developed his core following, he hasn’t showed any indication of ceasing to experiment stylistically. Psychedelic Thug features a nightmarish beat and meditations on just passing through like the phases of the moon, while Pact demands greater answers to the meaning of life against a gentler, more 90’s-style flow. Nevertheless, divergence from his more ominous sound is displayed in tracks like Hustle and Teardrops, favoring instead the muted riffs of modern rock-fused trap. This backdrop makes for a hospitable host to $igil’s vocal potential, oscillating between hardcore tenacity and jaded, low-range gruffness. Melding it all together is a demand for something more—musically, of course, but also thematically.
While melancholic hip-hop tends to stop at just “sad,” $igil presents solutions; mainly, breaking free from the arbitrary confines of the immediate and embracing the tabula rasa of the universe. Sure, it’s a story that we’ve heard before from psychedelic, stoner, and progressive artists. Yet, the instances in which these philosophies have been communicated effectively have been more fleeting. Reflecting over the course of the 2000’s, Tool interjected some wild thoughts and wilder album art, but did so at the expense of approachability (particularly in terms of its fanatical fanbase). As emo died and prog and dubstep reigned supreme, we entered a dark time of Kottonmouth Kings, Bassnectar, and Between the Buried and Me, opening up anything labelled as trippy to be dismissed as child’s play. Yet. $igil provides hope that a dire tone and a lot of heart can help strike a happy medium between pretentious and straight up silly.