Philadelphia-based producer and emcee Lushlife, born Rajesh Haldar, combines an art school take on hip hop production with a relentless flow usually reserved for MC battles. Lushlife’s first album, Cassette City, was released in 2009 on Rapster Records. The Cassette City Remix Project was released later in 2009 as an EP. Choosing an unorthodox way of spreading his music, Lushlife released a mixtape titled No More Golden Days on cassette tape (which has since become available digitally). On his most recent effort Plateau Vision (released in 2012 on Western Vinyl) Lushlife features a slew of well known and critically acclaimed lyricists to accompany him, such as former Lox and Bad Boy member Styles P, Canadian emcee Shad, and Heems from previous Band of the Day feature Das Racist, in addition to a number of other artists that compliment the flow and production of the album.
South Philadelphia emcee/producer Rajesh Haldar may or may not have been referencing his production values when he chose the name Lushlife, but it could hardly be more fitting. His debut LP Plateau Visions, where Haldar does double duty as both producer and rapper on most of the tracks, is stick your head in a kaleidoscope lush. The production focus shifts throughout the album, deviating from vintage samples to 8bit synths to gauzy lo-fi psych, but always maintaing a lush bed for Haldar's hard-hitting flow. Album opener “Magnolia” mines the same kind of subtly tropical vintage samples as the Avalanches. Haldar establishes a sprightly groove with a loop of ghostly 1950s vocal “ooooh's", luscious harp and nostalgic string samples. The samples are far from aggressive, the beat easy-going, but Haldar's flow is almost combative; this is a dude with something to say.
Lushlife nails the vintage samples thing so thoroughly you're a bit distraught when Haldar immediately changes course on track two and rarely returns, but his more contemporary-minded production is downright thrilling. “She's a Buddhist, I'm a Cubist” dips into dreamy indie trends, but in a beautifully natural way that doesn't feel a bit forced. The track rides a gauzy bed of droning samples and a chill, spaced out beat. Lushlife and guest MC Cities Aviv crash the party, then immediately become the life of it, laying down some energetic flow beaming with positive energy. Ending with the line “we never stop till we livin' in the lushlife,” it's tough not to agree that sentiment.
Haldar roped in Western Vinyl label-mate Botany for production duties on “Big Sur,” and the result is one of the album's strongest. Other than a head-bobbing beat, there isn't much here but gorgeously abstract daubs of sound and Lushlife's flow. The awesome thing is how Botany's left-field production fits so naturally with Haldar's energetic rhymes that you don't even think about how progressive it is.
Most importantly, Lushlife's genre experiments never feel like Frankenstein music journalist bait. His choices serve the music, not some hip agenda, and the incredibly lush production provides a riveting backdrop to Lushlife's intense rapping.