"It's just rap music," says Mike Perry, one half of the Chicago production duo Supreme Cuts. But their Chrome Lips mixtape collab with 16-year-old Barabadian hip-hop wunderkind Haleek Maul, out today via Mishka, is about as far-out as rap music can get while still maintaining massive style and a modicum of accessibility. Imagine Brotha Lynch Hung's paranoiac bleakness, the computer-wonked trap aggression of Odd Future duo MellowHype, and the haunted strangeness of A$AP Rocky rolled into one sticky, formaldehyde-dipped ball of purple goo. Haleek refers to it as "exorcist style" on the album, but Perry maintains, "I'm not trying to do one of those weirdo-type hybrid genre things. It's just rap music."
It's a respectable stance. Still, the 17-song set, which features appearances by Kool A.D., Deniro Farrar and Main Attrakionz, takes the already abstracted footwork of Cuts' June Whispers in the Dark instrumental LP and bathes it in spooked-out ambiance, creating a sound more viscerally nightmarish than any horrorcore verse in recent memory. Haleek's topics run the gamut from sideways references to sex and suicide to genuine musings on transcendence, but no matter the message or the emcee, almost every voice is followed by a ghost in reverb. Dive into surreality by downloading the entire thing below, and check out the story behind the collaboration courtesy as told to SPIN by Perry.
"About a year ago, me and Austin were on our first tour up the East Coast. We were on this mega-bus for eight hours and we got an e-mail from a rapper going by the name KIDGNS [Kid Genius]. It was one of those names without any vowels, and we had so many people hitting us up for beats right then that we were skeptical. But I guess Austin gave him his number, because I was taking a nap and he wakes me up, throws the phone in my ear and there's this kid freestyling for God knows how long. It was Haleek.
We'd actually been approached by Mishka that same day to put out a Supreme Cuts record but we already had Whispers on deck. Originally, this was supposed to be us highlighting a bunch of different rappers, but we wanted to do this instead. It was nice to break away from all original tracks to do rap production, plus Haleek has a very precise vision of what he wants, which you can tell listening to 'M00N' with the King Crimson sample and 'Hoverboard' uses a Brian Eno song. but a lot of it is us being tongue-in-cheek. We wanted to have fun with it, and to show other dimensions of Haleek's personality. When we first started talking to him we didn't realize he was so young. He was already talking a lot more intelligently about music than a lot of adults that I know. I'm really proud of what he's accomplished."