Certain sounds predictably light up my brain’s pleasure receptors—a singer’s voice almost breaking, a somber synth melody, autumnal cycling guitars a la my favorite emo albums. I couldn’t have anticipated obsessing over “My Stance,” a standout track from Back 2 Ballin, the debut full-length mixtape by local rapper Adamn Killa. A rapper rhyming “you” with “poo-poo” and “doo-doo” over a sample of Russian pop duo T.a.t.u.’s 2002 breakout single “All the Things She Said” doesn’t scream “play this over and over again,” at least not on paper. And yet Adamn pulls it off with his mumbling flow, a nonchalant near-whisper that makes him sound like he could close his eyes and drift off to sleep at any moment. Memphis producer Hitkidd provides “My Stance” with small jolts, and the tune’s motoring hi-hats and percussive power-ups rejuvenate Adamn’s otherwise somnolent style with poppy energy.
Adamn wears faded pink dreads and recently got his stage name tattooed in red above his right eyebrow, but he’s never that brash on the mike. He rarely veers far from a murmur, though he’s able to add color and character to his performances with affected groans and swallowed words, which give a handful of the songs on Back 2 Ballin individual identities distinct from the release’s overall sound. The mixtape mostly stays within the poorly defined boundaries of a somber, brooding hip-hop aesthetic that’s come to be called “sad rap.” Adamn shares those proclivities with Sad Boys Entertainment leader Yung Lean, who appears on Adamn’s 2014 debut EP, WhoDeyWant Vol. 1. He recently opened a handful of shows for Lean (though not the show at Concord last month) and appeared in his video for “Afghanistan,” made by Chicago hip-hop multimedia outlet Elevator. Lean, a Swedish MC with a stilted flow, is the definition of an Internet rapper—he’s scraped the Web for hip-hop styles from abroad and reimagined them in his own gray likeness. Adamn has arrived at a similar point by a different route, and his unconventional, sullen rhymes and pristine synthetic instrumentals that bubble and pop make him a fitting touring partner for Lean. Adamn’s Soundcloud catalog demonstrates how much finesse goes into his sluggish flow; the stumbling delivery of his early material hints that the ecstatic mellowness of Back 2 Ballin took more work to pull off than it sounds like. Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.