A subgenre of hiphop that many have been ravenously searching for, only to often come up short, is Southern, conscious hiphop in the vein of Outkast or Scarface. While other regions have had their revivals and trap is undergoing a strong second wind, where’s the country shit?
Enter Memphis MC Lukah. Many were introduced to him through When the Black Hand Touches You, which held the novelty of being so boombappy (much of it sounds Nicholas Craven-esque) and blaxploitation inspired. His next album Why Look Up? God’s in the Mirror, however, featured on our top ten of 2022 list. This time adopting much darker production with a more distinctly Southern atmosphere. While Lukah’s lyrics are as menacing as they come, he always brings the street talk back to greater themes of black empowerment and spirituality.
On his newest project Raw Extractions, Lukah maintains his distinctly Memphis sound while cranking up the conspiracy theories and disillusionment with the state of our country. On the opener “Flying Low”, he opens every single bar with “I am” and draws attention to the many woes of his people. This make come across as fake deep from some rappers, but Lukah is convincingly informed and pissed off.
“Rawderves” has a lush beat with some bounce to its keys, which make way for an interesting pocket that Lukah finds. He paints a twisted, dreamlike tail of his determination on “Returned Treasures”, which wraps up with a skit from Neil Degrasse Tyson who fittingly blurs the lines between religion and science. Another skit early on draws comparisons between the art of rap and the modes of other key black figures – Because what is rap if not a vehicle for revolution and expression?
The single “Thoughts Made Divine” features an especially slow, grimy beat full of stomps and rewinds; It also features some of Lukah’s best rapping on Raw Extractions. His rhyme scheme drags on for far longer than you’d expect given how many syllables they all are. Along with the commanding, ritualistic hook, this song is what Lukah’s all about.
Lukah – “Balaclava”
Songs like “Black Belt Jones” and “Presence of Color” lean much more experimental; with lofi, tight chops, you might expect to hear someone like Pink Siifu on here. Other highlights in the back half include “Flight Club”, with its churchlike, yet chilling piano; The steady flow and strung out beat on the single “Balaclava”; A stellar sample on “Fractures”; and the nearly ten-minute posse cut “Rare Formulaz”. Many of the MCs on here seem to be local artists, so it’s good to hear Lukah putting on for his people and home.
While Lukah is still woefully underground, he is certainly one of the key names in Southern consciousness (alongside artists like Grip, Marco Plus, and even JID) and old school production. While Raw Extractions might not be the grand statement album he’s been building up to, it is another strong project and a breath of fresh air in a sea of 808s.