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First Spin: Hot Sugar & Haleek Maul’s ‘I don’t wanna b judged’

Hot Sugar/ Photo by Ian Scott Stoner/ Haleek Maul

Hot Sugar (producer Nick Koenig) first popped up on my radar when he contributed the foggy, tone-setting opening rap track “Sleep” to the Roots’ excellent and severely underrated undun last year. The central tenet of Koenig’s beatmaking approach involves treating found sounds like classic hip-hop breaks ready to be chopped, looped, and contorted however he sees fit. The results can be eerie and devastating — like the traffic-noise beat of Big Baby Gandhi & Fat Tony’s “Lurkin'” from BBG’s NO1 2 LOOK UP 2 — or just plain absurd, like the dial-up modem skronk bounce of “56K,” a Heems-assisted track from Hot Sugar’s Midi Murder EP, out on Tuesday.

On “I don’t wanna b judged,” Barbados-via-the-Internet MC Haleek Maul details the death of a friend, the fruitlessness of even a little bit of success, and barfs up some Chex Mix out of frustration about it all. It’s the latest example of Maul elevating his youthful angst into mythic, scorched-earth betrayal. It’s like the kid in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian if he had bars and rap beefed with Judge Holden. Meanwhile, Hot Sugar’s beat, made up of what sounds like a creaking window squeak and creepy wails from the beyond, adds to the desolate atmosphere.

Would would you call this stuff? Found-sound rap? Andy Stott-hop? Hot Sugar’s Midi Murder EP, which also features 100s, Antwon, Das Racist, Shady Blaze, and many more of rap’s best weirdos, is being released through Scion A/V on Tuesday, but you can listen to the Haleek Maul-featured “I don’t wanna b judged” below, exclusively at SPIN.