Up-and-coming producer/rapper Kai Mella brings together hip-hop and EDM in an infectious swirl. It’s not as far out as it seems.



soundcloud Hip-hop and EDM rarely meet, which is strange considering their mutual roots in disco and jamaican soundsystem culture. The distinction seems even more arbitrary these days, with nearly all of the biggest hip-hop/r&b artists using synths, drum machines, and futuristic post-production. It’s basically club techno/house/bass music with rapping or singing. EDM has had a similar populism, with the pop culture hacking of PC Music and so on. EDM’s been as obsessed with bouncy island riddims and glassy house synths as Top 40 hip-hop or r&b, making being a purist seem even more nonsensical.

Not much is known about Kai Mella, but that’s about to change, judging from the ecstatic reception on “Lowkey Alcoholic.” Borderline addiction has never sounded fresher or catchier, with Kai Mella’s fizzy lifting beats and synth lines, making a zero-g launchpad for Mella’s authentic flow. Mella’s rapping is the rosetta stone for this slightly anonymous project. Too many rappers come off as stilted and stiff, when they’re trying to sound fashionable or “with it.” Kai Mella simply has it— that indescribable ‘nowness’ that gives us shivers at We Are: The Guard.

J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.