Cisco Swank and Luke Titus outside a white building with a red door
Credit: Erik Bardin

Chicago drummer Luke Titus and New York rapper-singer Cisco Swank unite jazz, R&B, and hip-hop on their new album, Some Things Take Time (Sooper). Brief but stimulating, the record feels like a walk around the block as the neighborhood awakens. Swank and Titus are both young multi-instrumentalists and producers with prodigious backgrounds: Swank attended New York’s famed LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and is continuing his studies at Berklee College, while Titus became the youngest musician to join the Blue Man Group when he was hired at age 15. They began collaborating in April 2020, a year after connecting over social media.

The music on Some Things Take Time often feels like something overheard outside a practice room after hours. On “Joint 5,” a breakbeat influenced by drum ’n’ bass duels with Swank’s calm ascending piano melody as though they’re parts of two different songs united only by their tempo. Though the track threatens to fall to pieces in a clatter of Titus’s snare drums, it ends on the downbeat after a breakneck minute and a half of the same breakbeat-and-piano progression. The duo’s disinterest in typical song structures can make for an unpredictable listen. “Joint 10” begins as an up-tempo showcase for Braxton Cook’s saxophone, whose layers bend in and out of harmony via extended technique or post-facto digital smearing. Then a tape machine clicks, a voice mumbles “Let’s try that other joint,” and the track transitions into a laid-back beat anchoring a haze of synth. On “Could It Be You,” Swank sings cryptic lyrics about entropy and romance through several layers of dissonant vocal effects, a la his Sooper labelmate Sen Morimoto. Once again, the duo follow the intense tempo of the track’s first part with a slower, looser groove, almost like a digestif. 

Some Things Take Time also features appearances from two of the best young rappers in Chicago, both rhyming about thriving in a corrupted city. On “Nothing’s Changed,” Saba raps about uncles faking clean urine samples, grandmothers saving money for bail, and “the differences between a handout and having assistance.” The bouncy chorus makes clear he’s not lamenting hardship but accepting it. Pivot Gang collaborator Femdot taps into similar themes on “Joint 4,” reflecting on working part-time jobs to support his music: “One thing I know now if I ain’t know it before,” he mumbles, “maintaining sanity is a contact sport.” Fox Valley producer and multi-instrumentalist Phoelix contributes a wordless vocal melody to the title track, bringing the same warm vocal tone he contributed to Noname’s 2018 song “Window” (from her album Room 25, where Phoelix produced and Titus played drums). These vocal features tap into the same giddy feeling of possibility as Swank and Titus’s instrumental passages. Some Things Take Time finds the common ground between jazz album and beat tape: it grooves unbound by song structure and communicates with more than words.

Cisco Swank and Luke Titus’ Some Things Take Time is available through Bandcamp.