by Zilla Rocca
A Philadelphia rapper from the duo 5 O'Clock Shadowboxers (his partner is Seattle beat maker Douglas Martin), Zilla Rocca calls his music "noir rap." That fits, and not just because Nate Patrin, who pointed me to their Bandcamp page where this five-song solo EP offers itself free of charge, aptly compared it to an audio version of Blast of Silence, Allen Baron's 1961 indie cult film about a hit man going to New York for a Christmas Eve job. These tracks are equally gray and pebbly—in "Bad Weather Classic," Zilla dubs himself "the black GG Allin," just in case you were wondering just how nihilistic he was feeling that day. It's made for folks who are starting to crave early Rawkus and Definitive Jux again: Zilla and fellow Philly MC Curly Castro rhymed over "Life's Ill," a Cannibal Ox B-side, on an earlier Bandcamp freebie, if that's any indication. The killer is "High School Ring": Over an unvarnished beat by the splendidly monikered Small Professor, Zilla revisits his old neighborhood and finds everyone at a dead end. "Your mom's not home, your best friend is shady/Your girl boosts bad cardigans from Old Navy," he rhymes. "No one travels, because everything is here/Parents at 19—no birth control, more beer... My mind tells me I have to fly, but I can't help [but] miss it there."
Last year, after he released the rave-throwback classic "Pineapple Crush," I asked Matt Cutler, the English dance producer who works as Lone, about the impetus behind the track. "I wasn't trying to be particularly fashionable or anything," he said. "I was just trying to [make] a tune that would make me want to dance and [would] give me goose bumps—that's practically my only criteria. I heard Altern-8 and the first Prodigy album when I was, like, 9 years old, so I've grown up with that music and therefore feel like I understand it inside out." He's not kidding, as this six-song double 12-inch proves again. My favorite song changes all the time, which is always a good sign. Right now it's "Dolphin," a harp-crusted revisit of the days when people thought that throwing open-air dance parties might actually change the world for the better and made music according to that principle. Next week, probably something else.