Probably the most rare, based, hipster find of the year was Safari Al’s Hermitage Academy. All credit goes to my brother who was smart enough to look up this guy after hearing his feature on one of Milo’s tracks. When he downloaded his 2012 release, it was at something like 100 downloads on Datpiff. That has to be some sort of record for rarest find ever right? Anyways, at first I wanted to put this album on my list simply because I wanted to show off that I knew about a rapper that had a total of 101 downloads. As I listened to it more and more though, I realized Safari Al has legitimate skill and I feel like it will only be a matter of time before he explodes. Granted his style and voice and beats are all very, very similar to what Milo is trying to achieve, but, at least in 2012, Hermitage Academy was longer and, in my opinion, a little better than Milo’s seven track Milo Takes Bathes.
The minute I knew I had made a fine choice in putting this album on my list was when I heard “Below the Urbanite” for about the third time. The track begins with an eerie yet pointed saxophone playing quarter notes that bear down heavily as the beat of the song. Then slowly a quiet drum track starts to play but the real percussion of the track comes from Safari Al’s incredible flow, which sounds like a snare drum being beat soundly. Its not even that intense of a song, but the simplicity of the endless saxophone playing throughout and the ebb and flow of the increase in Safari Al’s rapping creates such a powerful track that he becomes on par with Milo’s writing ability and in turn, on par with a lot of the rappers in the game right now. His flow is definitely his most powerful tool and he has one of the quickest and most poetic flows I have ever heard. What makes it so powerful is the fact he uses it so rarely. He does his fair bit of singing and melodic rapping, but when he needs to and when he needs to make a track that much more powerful, he can pull out the big guns and spit rhymes with speed on par with Twista. This fact and the fact that his writing of complicated lyrics and use of innovative beats ranging from saxophones, to string quartets to classic DJ beats make Safari Al one of the freshest rappers I have heard in a long time.