Alabama rap monster SeKwence and Florida master producer BDB Suff have been an immaculate hip hop duo in the past, teaming up for classic cuts like ‘BounceHouz’, ‘Pass That’. But while these songs were teaming with additional Souless rappers, on HIGHED UP the duo’s chemistry is largely a sole process. Indeed, this project sounds wildly different to any music either artist has produced in 2018. Sek’s flow remains gruff and his lyrics paranoid and painfully honest, but this EP feels more like an exploration of his flagrant mic presence than the gloomy FULGORE or the vivid, nostalgia-glazed storytelling of TSIF. Suff’s beats are less dynamic than they were on BIMBO, employing even zanier techniques like the almost accordion-esque sounds on ‘Trophy Case’ to wonderful effect.
Suff’s greatest production here might just be on ‘DEY MAD’, a track blooming with cloudy reverb and a myriad of whining synths. SeKwence’s first lines are typically captivating: ‘I’m on that bike with broken handlebars, still can’t afford to cop the caviar, I’m off that dollar menu in the family car’. In becoming more experimental with the structures of his songs (first glimpsed on the ambitious songwriting of TSIF), the rapper has allowed for a greater focus on his impressive rhyme schemes and earworm mini-hooks.
Sek’s sole challenge on HIGHED UP, which is in essence a well deserved victory lap for the year’s most consistently impressive rapper, was to compete with Ruci’s extremely rare verse on ‘Bogey Man’. The latter comes through with a verse almost as good as his ‘Pass That’ offering, proving twice now that he can float over Suff’s production as well as any other rapper in their posse. But really the air of competition isn’t there at all, this is just two friend’s having fun over a slick beat reminiscent of the producer’s work on ‘GETAWAY DRIV3R’.
The tape comes to a natural close with ‘Ascension (UP)’, an apt conclusion to a tape with such a cloudy, hazy vibe. Sek glides over the gorgeous soundscape, hammering home phrases like ‘I been high for like three weeks, I’m just use this rap as a cheat sheet or the get rich quick scheme’ and a simple repetition of ‘You could never do enough though’ as the song fades. All of this is prefaced by ‘Let me talk my shit’, showing that while the rapper’s faith in his own rap ability is rightfully strong, he is ultimately saying all this for the fuck of it. And, given how great a year he’s had already, and how good this project is as a cap off, I’d say he’s more than earned that right.