F.A.B.L.E. Credit: Denis Thompson

Englewood multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and rapper Christopher Horace started releasing solo recordings a little more than two years ago. He released his first mixtape, February 2018’s Exodus, under the name Nephset, but since then he’s been performing and recording as F.A.B.L.E., which stands for Finally a Black Life Explained. For a year or so now, Horace has been working on a full-length tentatively titled Duckweed, but he’s grown so frustrated with his own process that he decided to compile seven of its songs and release them via his own Storybook Records as (IX) The Hermit. (He still plans to finish Duckweed eventually.) Whatever causes the underlying friction that’s stalled Duckweed, it’s imperceptible on the cool, in-the-pocket hip-hop on (IX) The Hermit. Horace’s rambunctious inflections impart a youthful swagger to the EP’s slender horns, billowy keys, and relaxed percussion, and he’s so comfortable on the mike that he can make his wordiest verses go down smoothly. When he raps about his artistic individuality on the summery “Boogie Board,” he makes the better half of his point with his commanding presence. He’s far from the only Chicagoan to make uplifting hip-hop filled with introspective lyrics about his neighborhood, Black life, and community, but his jubilance, his open-book warmth, and his expressive fervor help him stand out. Horace originally released (IX) The Hermit in April, and in May he made it available on Bandcamp as well—all proceeds from sales through that platform benefit the George Floyd Memorial Fund.   v