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Taphari Is Brooklyn's Best Rap Alien

The Brownsville rapper's new single "Tell Me How" is another example of the extraterrestrial energy he's brought to Brooklyn clubs over the last few years.

by Colin Joyce
Mar 20 2019, 4:57pm

The Brownsville artist Taphari is well aware he isn't like everyone else. That's sort of just what the world requires of you when you're in a body that exists at the margins of society—people don't let you forget the ways in which you don't fit in. Press materials describe him as a "loner" seeking "asylum" from these feelings. But he's been talking about this stuff openly for years—his preferred metaphor is the sort of isolation an alien feels in a foreign land.

Speaking to THUMP a few years ago, he described how he was starting to express those feelings in his art: "I sing about how my time amongst humans has left me with a desire for alienation." He's found occasional refuge, in the underground queer scene in Brooklyn that's always filled with likeminded freaks, but the world occasionally requires you to have interactions outside the community you choose for yourself. "I step back into the real world and the battle begins again," he told the photographer Sam Clarke. "This is my life and I won't be pacified."

You can sense some of this perspective in the title of his new EP—due March 29—for the New York electronic label Mister Saturday Night. It's called Earth's No Fun, which, in it's own way seems like a way of keeping the world at bay. It's a suggestion that the way he moves through the world can't (and shouldn't) be dictated by society as we know it. Other worlds are possible.

That's what his music's been about over the last couple of years, presenting this mystic, unrestrained energy, whether everyone else is ready for it or not. Channelling his history in underground electronics, as well as a childhood love for free-as-fuck musicians like Mary J. Blige and Lil Kim—he's made this take on rap that feels borderless and alien, built around mutating beats and a sort of syllable hopscotch. Today, he's sharing the latest in a string of singles "Tell Me How," which channels that alien approach into a diffident club track.

Over a shredded kick drum that'd make Ronny J jealous, Taphari offers this slippery, contorted flow that feels both indebted to uptown fashion raps and the scene in which he found a home. Other pockets of the underground have started calling themselves mutants, but I think Taphari's right to adopt the extraterrestrial energy. Even when he's tackling familiar themes—like if and how one might procure illicit substances—it comes from this perspective that's totally out of this world. There's little else like it.

So in advance of Earth's No Fun—available for pre-order now—check out the new single here and appreciate the vision of a truly singular presence.