Sage, the 64th Wonder Credit: RIBO

When I interviewed Chicago rapper and SlumpGang member Receo Gibson a few years ago about changing his stage name from Sage, the 64th Wonder to Lunxch, he said he did it to help get out of a creative tight spot. “When I was under the moniker Sage, I felt, like, clustered,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do musically. I didn’t have no direction. It drove me into a panic, a mental panic.” Perhaps the break from that name provided Gibson with the new focus he desired: after a quiet 2020, he returned as Sage in February with the simmering EP The Gods Here Are Stupid, where he sounds re-energized. On his follow-up, May’s Hierophant (O-Go Sound Group), Gibson’s growling verses ride so low on the unvarnished boom-bap beats that the grit in his voice practically scuffs up their dusty samples and wrought-iron percussion. On “Talking Shoes,” he accompanies a looped sample that sounds like muffled strings with lyrics about the creative pressure cooker that musicians face when they’re trying to provide for a family—and the tension he creates by crowding his rapping up against the instrumentals ratchets up his ferocity and drive. By the end of Hierophant, it’s clear that Gibson has enough gas in the tank to power him to the next fill-up.   v