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Best Rap Releases of the Week 27

A Laid-Back El Rass Butchers Heads with a Smile in ‘Vodka W Cerelac’

In his new track ‘Vodka w Cerelac’, Lebanese rapper El Rass fires in all directions, but maintains poise, composure and an undeniable lyrical flair.

El Rass sizes the rap scene and chops up a flow salad in his latest record ‘Vodka W Cerelac’. With the release of his last album Bab Al Doukhoul, a tribute to his homeland with its warts and all doubling as a deep dive into the irony of Lebanon’s political strife, El Rass revealed another layer of distinction. Quickly followed by an ingenious beat tape ‘حر بن يم’ (Hur Bin Yem), which demonstrated the extent of his musical roots and the breadth of his sound spectrum, El Rass emerges again unexpectedly with a slow jazzy record.

For avid listeners, it won’t be the first time hearing El Rass rap over a slow beat, though the laid-back rhythm, dream jazzy keys, synths, and the occasional guitar riff were a light swerve from the rapper’s darker-toned works. Hints of his newfound levity can be traced back to tracks such as ‘Fi Bassal’ from his last album, but they are more wholly unleashed on the new record, as if he has reached a point of slitting throats with a smile. Yet, what was most thrilling was his linguistic mastery coupled with an effortless flow, a reminder of his older records and an attestation to being one of the most talented lyricists in the scene.El Rass delivered an easy-on-the-ear performance while putting on display his meticulous wordplay. Working with Lebanese actor and director Jamal Awar, with whom he collaborated on the music video for the major track ‘Bilal’, El Rass and his crew captured a day in the life. Seen in his urban element, shifting between ridiculing pseudo rapper careers on a day swing, to chopping up big mogul heads in the kitchen, El Rass seems to be having fun. While he takes jabs at rappers’ rhythmic incoherence, he also serves them a lesson in consonance, making syllable play and alliteration look as simple as breathing, and what’s more boastful than an untamed, unquestionable level of skill?

In typical El Rass style, the track is filled with historic references and characters, puns, and double entendres, flavoured with a cunning mingling of languages in which he throws in some Spanish. ‘Vodka W Cerelac’ acts as a satirical jab at the banality of man overwhelmed by his sense of self, the dissonance in reality caused by chasing fake thrills, and the regression of our lifestyles.

Throughout this self-affirming record, putting himself on the pedestal, he also lays his lyrical weight by taking a shot--quite literally--at Riad Salameh, the Governor of the Lebanese Central Bank. While the bank updates policies and offers trivial ‘solutions’ to try and tame the anger of small depositors stripped of 80 percent of their entrusted wealth, the Lebanese rapper grounds the conversation in its essence. “We want offshore,” El Rass references the gargantuan amounts of money the political elite embezzled from his country, hidden in off-shore accounts. In a moment of satirical comedy concurrent with the hard-hitting line, the music video breaks the fourth wall with a cameo of the operating drone and production crew, paying tribute to the collective efforts behind his work, while showing just how fabricated our lives have become.