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Smoke Establishes Himself With Style, Consistency and Charismatic Rhymes On Latest Mixtape ‘He Raps Like’

Hailing from the hip hop laced streets of the capital, Delhi rapper Smoke released his mixtape ‘He Raps Like’ on the first day of March. This marks a very important stage in his career as this is his second mixtape and third overall major release. This is the body of work which is gonna prove if he has the ability to stay consistent and deliver rhymes like he has on his previous mixtape with Qaab ‘Baggage Claim’ and his first album ‘Veni Vidi Vici’. 

The intro track is an almost self titled one called ‘I rap like’. We hear the sound of a cassette being inserted and played. The beat ebbs and flows (courtesy markmywords), it has a smooth and mellow vibe to it with transcendent choir vocals, it sounds like something Tyler, The Creator or Kanye West would use. Smoke comes in with the drums, delivering bars about his life, the rap game and how they intertwined and often entangled to show him some very tough times. He looks back on the fact that even after rhyming for 7 years, he still doubts himself, and has to prove his place to his critics and his family. The drums are kept at the back of the mains on this one, letting the bars and the instrumental shine through, a very smart production choice. The lines, even while addressing pretty heavy themes, have a lot of witty and funny ones thrown in there, while also having callbacks to the rap game and smoke’s inspirations in hip hop.

‘Quotables’ flips the vibe set by the intro track on its head, with the staple elements of a trap track: a dark piano loop, fast and sharp drums, hi hat triplets and Smoke flexing about his place in the game. Asura puts a canvas in front of the listener over which Smoke goes wild, painting and splattering it with colours. This is probably the track where he’s the most barred up, relentlessly punching you in the gut with one face-scruncher after the other.

‘Akele akele’ keeps the energy going, with yet another dark trap beat (courtesy Damien Alter), only this time instead of hitting us with a barrage of bars, Smoke gives us time to breathe with a hook. He talks about him being at the top of the game, and how only him and his friends (such as Rebel and Qaab) are the top 3 of the Delhi rap scene. Smoke proves that no matter what the vibe of the track or the themes being talked about are, he will find a way to sneak in clever rhymes, figures of speech and witty words which will make you crack a smile, referencing everything from Encore ABJ with the ’36 kaam’ lyrics (from SM’s iconic ‘Batti’), calling himself the Godfather of Delhi (Vito Corleone), the sneaky Gunna shoutout with the ‘Pushin’ P’ lyric and so much more.

‘Swagat’ features Smoke teaming up with Savage, Umer Anjum and Kaiso on a sci-fi type trap beat. Smoke starts it off, delivering yet another masterclass of double entendres, while flexing on his competition and haters. (The “I’m just kidding ladies you know I love y’all” nod to Eminem, nice.)

The mic is passed to Savage who comes in with the same energy, with braggadocious lines and talking about working with his idols, living the dream and being a part of what he dreamt of for years. Also the line, your idols can never be your rivals (a nod to MGK’s diss against Eminem, Rap Devil), calling himself Drake because of his numbers on the charts, keeping the rapper referencing theme going really tops it all off to make sure he goes out on this track with a banger of a verse.

Umer stays true to his style of rhymes within rhymes within rhymes within rhymes. His verse is very reminiscent of the Eminem and MF DOOM style of rap, as entire bars rhyme with each other and are delivered with that nonchalant but still serious tone which makes them hit so much harder.

Smoke takes us back to the vibe set on the first track on ‘Khushnaseeb’, the old school, lofi type beat with a mellow instrumental and the drums just chilling in the background (the second packer on this mixtape produced by markmywords), waiting for the bars to grace the beat. Smoke takes a moment to stop and appreciate the little things in life, how far he’s come, from a dream he envisioned 7 years ago to living it out in this moment. He talks about how he’s not reached his destination yet but the journey he’s on is beautiful and how he’s thankful to have a roof over his head, food on his plate and loyal fans who support him. The music video matches the vibe of the track, a simple minimalistic one with two main frames, Smoke rapping inside and next to a vintage car and an open field.

‘Thandi Hawa’ is very reminiscent of the style of Seedhe Maut on their 2022 mixtape ‘Nayaab’.  Smoke’s influences and idols really shine through on every song on this mixtape, proving that he’s indeed a student of the game. On the second track on this mixtape produced by Kaiso, Smoke talks about the negative experiences in life, particularly a lost love, which broke his heart but at the same time about how he’s thankful for them because it was because of those adversities that he started penning down his pain, fears and eventually his life in these pages we hear today.

‘Vendetta’ features a super smooth beat which features an eerie and mysterious horn loop and some smooth boom bap drums (courtesy Sincere Noble). This could easily be the soundtrack of a gangster movie and that’s exactly how Smoke sees it too, as he delivers lines about living the gangster life and flexes on his rivals along with a visualiser that could easily be mistaken for a 1990s Scorcese film snippet. The hook is a slightly modified version of Tupac’s iconic ‘Hail Mary’ verse, Smoke switches up the first line in Hindi while keeping the other lines intact, yet another way of paying homage to his idols. 

We’re instantly transported back to the trap beat vibe by Asura on the next track ‘One and Only’ as Smoke continues to talk about how he’s gonna be the G.O.A.T very soon and how he’s finally reaping the fruits of his labour and continues to kill all his emcee competition. 

The final track ‘Face of my City’ is produced by none other than the conductor extraordinaire, Sez on the Beat. A virtually drumless but still hard hitting loop, over which Smoke talks about everything he said on this mixtape, from lost love, to going up in the game, to being thankful for what he’s gained until now and fondly looking forward to what he’ll achieve in the future. A perfect closer which ties all the topics talked about in this mixtape neatly in a bow, to present it to the listener.

Smoke has really found his sound with this release. It’s fair to say that he’s established himself and his undeniable style and charisma of rhyming in the DHH scene. The only thing that’s left for us as listeners to do is sit back and see what other areas of his mind and life he takes us into with his words.

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