Qari and Mulatto Beats Credit: Bryan Allen Lamb

The new debut album from Chicago producer Mulatto Beats, .22 Summers, includes a somnambulant track called “Good to Lose,” where rapper Qari says, “I’m not relaxin’, I’m just practicin’ my style.” He lets his words tumble out easily, during a pause between verses; like the best of his rapping, it feels ad libbed, whether or not he spent hours figuring out when and how to say it. And the line fits not just the mood of “Good to Lose” but his work with Mulatto Beats in general—and there’s a lot of it. They’ve been collaborating steadily for about six years: first in Supreme Regime, then in Hurt Everybody, and now that both those groups are defunct, just as themselves.

Mulatto Beats joined Supreme Regime as a high school freshman, not long after he started making instrumentals. He’s 22 now, and his work with Qari is still his most rewarding material—the two tracks where his old friend appears are the best on .22 Summers. In an interview with Fake Shore Drive founder Andrew Barber last week, Mulatto Beats said his favorite verse on the album is Qari’s last turn on “Good to Lose,” because it’s “just a really personal situation that I think fit the theme of this project perfectly.” Qari abandons his usual lackadaisical pace, sounding anxious and urgent as he raps about avoiding gangs on one side and cops on the other. He knows the odds are stacked against young black men, and he even sees a friend get locked up, but he keeps his wits about him.