“I’ve been ahead of the curve, now sit back and observe,” Beans says, sparking Knifefight, his collaborative Anticon EP with producer Mux Mool.
After all, Beans has operated at the vanguard of art-rap since it was just called abstract. A co-founder of the Anti-Pop Consortium, the native New Yorker has long fused 24th century beats with staccato poetics. He’s navigated between the constellations of sci-fi and street, cerebral imagery balanced by electro-funk body grooves.
As he points out on the opening track (“Gloss”), he’s “been to many places and held many mics.” With that experience comes mastery. But unlike many veterans, Beans remains inherently opposed to stasis. From day one, the deconstructionist has stuck sharp silverware into the status quo. You’ll never know what to expect from album to album, song to song, or bar to bar.
If Beans is best known for his intricate avalanches of words, Knifefight finds the former fine arts student at his most accessible. Signed to Ghostly Records, Mool’s beats offer the perfect canvas to help brighten Bean’s palette—weaving together disco, house, and jagged hip-hop into something as colorful as rum punch.
“The tracks are up-tempo and groovy, but still open enough to let me do my thing,” Beans says. “Mux’s tracks inspired me to write immediately and in a more upfront and accessible way.”
If you’ve been riding with Beans since his first tragic epilogue, Knifefight’s looseness may surprise you. While many grow grimmer with each record, Beans has become more adept at starting at the party. He’ll never be the type to write raps shouting out Versace or Veuve Clicquot, but his new EP finds him brash and confident. One second, he’ll be seducing beautiful girls at the bar, the next he’ll be joined by guest stars like Kool AD of Das Racist, Cities Aviv, Sub Con to burst the bubbles of subpar rappers.
Knifefight marks his sophomore foray for Anticon. His label debut, 2011’s End it All found the literary-minded artist collaborating with Four Tet, Tunde Adibempe (TV on the Radio), Tobacco (Black Moth Super Rainbow), and Sam Fogarino (Interpol).
Pitchfork raved it was “another well-earned notch in Beans' solo belt and a testament to the strength of his artistic vision.” Hip Hop DX hailed him as leader in defying convention, while calling it “his strongest solo record to date.”
Always prolific, Beans is already in the lab crafting another full-length for Anticon (Wolves of the World) and a novel about a teenager who becomes possessed by a record and goes on a killing spree (Die Tonight). Until then, there is Knifefight, which promises to leave visible marks for the indefinite future.
“It’s the most relaxed, fun and playful album I’ve ever done,” says Beans. “But it’s still hard enough to feel like a knife fight, y’know…”