Charlotte lyricist MESSIAH! is more than just an associate of fellow Charlotte rapper Mavi in North Carolina collective Killswitch. He’s a gifted songwriter in his own right, a technician over instrumentals that raps with the same breathless efficiency of an Earl Sweatshirt. PERFECT 7 is a gleaming example of this; a surprisingly introspective journey into the world of Charlotte rap, and a thoroughly impressive showing from one of the hottest up-and-coming names in alternative hip-hop.
Opening with the Rhodes-heavy “LORDY!”, you can tell what you’re about to get from the North Carolina rapper from the very first bar. There’s something to be said for the emcees who rap like rent was due yesterday, and MESSIAH! brings a ravenous hunger to every track that immediately perks your ears to listen to what he has to say. “DEVILLE” is a brassy, Beyonce-interpolating cut that feels fresh off of SRS. If that doesn’t entice a listen, then I don’t know what will. Sample-driven cut “PANEL 26” is a raucous and triumphant ode to the trials and tribulations that it took to get here and the ones yet to come. Mavi collaboration “SO MUCH HATE” brings a vaguely latin instrumental that surely sounds like an Alchemist production, actually produced by Nova Blue. It’s the quintessential alternative rap banger, with the two queen city emcees emphatically trading bars. Never one to let his foot off the pedal, “IT’S OURS” provides another measured counterpunch to the diverse pacing of the project, furthermore focusing on the long nights of grinding that it took MESSIAH! to get where he is today. The project ends on the bittersweet “CLOUD WALKER/LOVE BCK” that perfectly mixes the triumphant and poignant themes of the entire EP. Probably the supreme accomplishment of PERFECT 7 is its delicate toeing of the line between these two polar opposites, embedding its runtime with swings between the highest of highs and the wistful reminiscence on the long, oftentimes painful road it took to get there.
Out of all the artists making alt hip-hop these days, there are only a small handful that are actively innovating in a sound that was birthed from reckless innovation. Earl, Mavi, Redveil, MIKE, and now MESSIAH! are poised to become that early pantheon of a subgenre that’s already developed a rabid but choosy fanbase. PERFECT 7 is the project that should put the North Carolinian on the map, from Charlotte to the world.