When Primeridian rapper Simeon Viltz put together his contribution for the most recent In Rotation, he was also preparing to release a pay-what-you-want album with beatmaker Mulatto Patriot called Ray Elementary. The lush collection of feel-good hip-hop tracks draws heavily from soul and funk—specifically the type of funk that can only be pronounced fonk, with a hard onk. On tracks such as “Funkorama” and “Funky Junkie,” the pair employ enough whammy-bar guitar riffs to do just that, without being distractingly flamboyant.
There’s a lot of “fonk” on Ray Elementary that’s fit for late-night parties in houses decked out with velvet wallpaper and lit up by lava lamps, though Viltz doesn’t just rap about good vibes. On “Writers Block,” a low-key soul track, he talks about his unending desire to create. I got hooked the first time I heard the song’s chorus, especially the line “I write / Even though I’m left-handed / I write / ‘Cause mentally my people left stranded.”
The couplet is almost terse, but Viltz lingers on the word stranded just enough to make that entire sentiment stand out, providing a statement that has a lot of weight with an extra couple tons. It’s a small fraction of what makes the song so inspiring; this is one I imagine I’ll return to whenever I feel stuck and unable to write. The motivation required can be difficult to muster, but Viltz makes it sound easy. It makes sense that he’s mentored local youngsters who aspire to be MCs and producers. Some of those hip-hop artists have made some inspiring music of their own—like, say, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Stefan Ponce.
Viltz and Mulatto Patriot are celebrating the release of Ray Elementary at Double Door on Thu 2/6 as a part of the Hip-Hop Monthly series. Check out the rest of the album below:
Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.