As the local hip-hop scene begins to flex its muscles just a bit, the duo of Syn the Shaman and the Lin, a/k/a Trails, play the roles of angry young men. This week, they follow up February's full-length debut with a six-song EP, Trails & Co., that is fiery and aggressive, building on their reputation for outsider lyrics and explosive production.
Early on, the Lin goes for blaxploitation beats, with mean, rumbling bass and wicka-wicka guitar, backing for a modern-day Shaft. It's a perfect bed for Syn's gritty delivery. "I wear my halo around my throat," he growls on "Posterize You," "Always makes me choke." The Lin cuts and crabs, too, a sound that's almost nostalgic nowadays.
And while "using big words doesn't necessarily make you sound smarter" (Syn's words, not mine), I do appreciate the team-up with Ill by Instinct they title "Rasputin's Castration." The Mad Monk was definitely a bad, bad man. So are Gang Starr, who get bit on "Note to Self," Trails' indictment of contemporary (maybe local) hip hop. Over a repeating chime, Syn and guest ALT (he's on half the tracks here) take on all comers: "You'd probably sell your soul for a single."
Eh. I don't think you need to sell your soul for a catchy chorus, and Trails could use a couple more of them. They give a nod to the form with Kristina Kentigian's guest vocals on "Elevator Etiquette," but the hook could be set deeper. This ain't a pop record, though. If you know that coming in, you won't be disappointed.
TRAILS & CO. | Released by Trails | part of Rap Night, Nov 30 | at the Big Easy, in Portland | trailsounds.com