Rap vagabond is about the only way to describe Rav.
The USSR-born, London-based, East Coast-terrorizing rapper is a man out of time and without a land. A founder of the internet only EXO label, Rav and his cohort met through the fertile grounds of Newgrounds, looking for fellow hip-hop heads who held Akira and Illmatic in equal reverence. Rav burst out in 2012 with the Hyperkinesis EP, a rambunctious, bratty collection of songs that only held a veneer of joy before diving into an ocean’s worth of sorrow.
In the three years after, Rav grew up. His own struggles with addiction and depression had reached their climaxes, and in the burnout, he found the spirit that moved Beneath the Toxic Jungle. “Solanine,” the first single from the album, was a grand representation of the lo-fi, sigh filled, improbably catchy rap that he rode throughout the album. So read our thoughts on “Solanine,” listen to our interview with Rav and see why we think it’s one of the best of the 10s.
So, you’ve hit rock bottom. The encompassing weight of depression, the sparking pain of anxiety and another mess of maladies have all combined to place a crown of numbness on your head. No social simulation, no uppers, downers, nostalgic recalls will shake you. It’s over.
Then the sun rises. The next day starts. People go to work. And you go on too.
This is “Solanine.” Depression has no proper climax, anxiety ain’t cinematic, it just is. There’s no montage to accompany either the long fall down or the grueling climb out. You just—live with all of it. And few rappers, few artists period, were able to grapple with that harsh reality like Rav. Though Beneath the Toxic Jungle copped samples from Anime, it actively refused any narrative arc, staying proudly, remarkably ambiguous. The jazzy, faded-pastoral beat on “Solanine” joins Rav’s apathetic flow, only broken by the sudden interjection of “this is what it feels like!” Only for a small voice to ask “right?” The syrupy, torpid confines of depression flow through every molecule of “Solanine,” even as the song’s snapping, laid-back flow stays catchy as hell. The song ends, but fades right into another meditation. The sun rises, the next day starts, and you, and Rav, go on.