Smba Credit: <a href="">@prayfuckgrow</a>

Chicago-via-Michigan rapper Smba plies pop-punk aesthetics to make hip-hop tracks soaked in melancholy. These songs could tentatively be described as Soundcloud rap, since that term (which took hold of hip-hop four years ago) has already been stretched far enough to include any MC with a Fall Out Boy T-shirt, but they have enough dimensions that not even the loosest label can contain them. Smba takes a gentle, inviting approach on their latest EP, Claustrophobic (2DB Company), usually maintaining a level-headed restraint on their half-sung verses even when their syllables cluster in rapid-fire knots—and that sense of self-control and self-awareness lends hopefulness to their most somber lyrics. On early single “Slow Down,” Smba navigates a sour acoustic-guitar riff by veering between a swooning hook and blocks of tough lines that nearly leave them out of breath—a strategy that helps each new verse arrive with an irresistible sense of uplift.   v