Credit: Adam Yafai

When I first listened to the new collaborative album from Chicago rappers Defcee and CRASHprez, It’s Always a Time Like This (Closed Sessions), I lost track of how many times I replayed a passage to catch an ingenious turn of phrase that’d I’d missed when it zoomed by the first time. In “Safer,” Defcee rounds off and separates every syllable in his blocks of verses, even when he twists his rhymes like a clown turning a handful of balloons into a Noah’s Ark of animals: “Memories of ditchin’ the kitchen and chillin’ in sun rays,” he raps in one especially dense couplet, “Left its past with a round-trip ticket and thinking it’s one-way.” Just as often, I’d pause the album to laugh in amazement at an especially florid and precise streak of bars, and CRASHprez’s flow-shifting performance at the start of “Keep That” nearly provokes that response even now, when I know what to expect. As defprez, these two MCs give each other the space and the juice to approach the mike with refreshed energy, meticulously knotty verses, and enough heart to make every line count. Throughout It’s Always a Time Like This, CRASHprez and Defcee are clearly performing especially for the people they most want to impress: each other.

defprez Semiratruth and J Bambii open. Thu 5/4, 8:30 PM, Golden Dagger, 2447 N. Halsted, $20, 21+