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Rap is More Than Rhythm: A POLO PERKS <3<3<3 Album Review

March 22, 2023

There is no more misunderstood or unfairly dismissed art form today than hip-hop, or more specifically, rap music. In a 2020 video made by conservative outlet Daily Wire, the infamous right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro had this to say about the genre: “It is basically spoken rhythm. It’s not actually a form of music. It’s a form of rhythmic speaking. Thus, beyond the objectivity of me just not enjoying rap all that much, what I’ve said before is that rap is not music.” What Ben fails to account for (among many other things), is that some of the most highly touted hip-hop records of all time were built on the backs of sampling, defined as “the reuse of a portion (or sample) of a sound recording in another recording.” While detractors such as Ben are quick to criticize the staccato, triplet flow, and vapid, provocative lyrics of the rap group Migos, they conveniently fail to bring up the production on the song, which holds just as much if not more value – in rap music especially – as the vocal performances. Migos popular song Narcos actually samples the iconic 1826 folk song Skip to my Lou, a composition that I am sure Shapiro would have no problem referring to as “real music”. Migos are just one of many rap acts that employ intricate samples in their songs, only for that aspect of their music to be overlooked in favor of criticism about their lyrical content and monotone vocal performances.

Today, I want to talk about an underrated rapper out of Harlem whom I think has mastered the art of sampling, but because of his name and branding, will almost surely fail to receive the recognition he deserves. The artist I am speaking of is none other than POLO PERKS <3 <3 <3. As someone who listens to a lot of music, I tend to gravitate towards music that sounds particularly unique, like something that I haven’t heard before. But describing POLO PERKS <3<3<3 2021 album Punk Goes Drill+** Hosted by Shokuradio as unique feels like a disservice to the creative masterpiece. 

POLO (as I will be referring to him as going forward), created a concise, minimalist, amalgamation of emo rap, punk rock, and drill music that is worthy of its own new genre. In terms of his vocals, POLO employs a soft-spoken style of drill that is reminiscent of other underground New York rappers such as RX Papi. His lyrics consist of a combination of aggression and an underlying sadness that paint a vivid picture of the tough Harlem streets that POLO grew up on. His delivery is slightly off-beat, in a way that gives the album a muddy, amateur feel. 

The production by NYC born producer Goner, however, is anything but amateur. The album is replete with samples, primarily from 2000s pop bands including Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, The Killers, Say Anything, Snow Patrol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I Set My Friends on Fire, The Foo Fighters, and more. Looking for these samples becomes like a game of I-spy for the listener, each song simultaneously appealing to the listeners nostalgia for the sample, and showcasing POLO’s impressive delivery and quality lyricism. 

My personal favorite track off of this album has to be “snowpatrol”. This song samples the iconic refrain (If I just layyyyyyy hereeeeeee) from the 2006 Snow Patrol song “Chasing Cars” to create an earworm that will not soon leave the listeners mind. The song is short, and the lyrics are not particularly poignant, but the production by Goner and delivery by POLO more than make up for it. The seamless fusion of genres punk, rap, and drill, and the brilliant sampling of 2000s pop music made Punk Goes Drill+** Hosted by Shokuradio one of my favorite albums of 2021, and I can’t wait to see what POLO has in store for us in the future. I gave this album an 8.5/10. 

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