Hip-hop moves at the speed of light. It expands and morphs at a rate that is hot to the touch. That has been true for four decades at this point, and I can’t help but wonder when hip-hop’s seemingly eternal flame of creativity and popularity will level out. When it does, the artists that connect with fans — young and increasingly, old — will be the ones that are able to draw from the whole history of the genre. That moment hasn’t happened yet. The latter half of the 10s produced some of the most exciting and boundary-pushing artists the genre has ever seen and it seems like that will continue for the foreseeable future. When that levelling out does come, people will be ready for Brampton’s B1GJuice.
B1Gjuice’s first collection of songs (after releasing a boatload of singles last year), titled SEARCHING.zip, is an incisive and highly enjoyable ride along down the many lanes B1GJuice operates in, often all at once. Over a lean 14 minutes, the young rapper traces his journey as a dreamer and all the highs and lows that come with daring to imagine you can make it. “Just keep pushing,” he smoothly repeats, mantra-like on “Chapter2.revelation”, a track that reminds me of another rapper named Big. It’s a prime example of B1G’s breadth: SEARCHING.zip is packaged like the recent Earl Sweatshirt releases or Kanye’s Wyoming Sessions, short and concise, aware of the modern listener’s short attention span. Still, he manages to pack in flows and sounds that wouldn’t alienate classic rap fans the way Earl’s Feet of Clay or Kids See Ghosts might. He puts it all together on “Chapter4.bliss”, which sounds like “Touch the Sky” or “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” if they were sent through a black hole.
SEARCHING.zip works in two separate running orders: the official tracklist (meant to flow musically), or in the order of his journey from pain to humility to joy. The “official” order is most effective, but once again this show’s B1GJuice’s understanding of both myth-making and the way fans obsess over music. That extra effort, that easter egg, goes a long way in building a foundation for a long career. In the wake of Drake, lots of hip-hop artists from the GTA have been given their moment despite not being ready for it. Their careers have taken off but their recorded output is destined to be largely forgotten. When B1Gjuice gets his moment, he will be ready. SEARCHING.zip captures an artist with immense knowledge of his artform coming to terms with the possibility that he really can make his own mark on that form — if he can get past his own insecurities.