Whispering from within the shadows. Stealthily circling us in the darkness. Predatory percussive beats and venomous but ultimately clandestine vocal assaults are skulking about in the backdrop as soon as we press the play button on the new single “Hold This L” from Conceptz, and if you have your volume turned up loud enough, I think you can actually hear the sonic chills as they come pouring out of the stereo speakers in real time.

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For an act like Conceptz, making texturally expressive music is nothing new, but incorporating it into a format that the hip-hop masses can handle is still something not many in their scene have been able to do, regardless of their talent level or acquired skill. “Hold This L” is potentially the most experimental I’ve heard them venture off of the beaten path, but if you liked hits along the lines of 2018’s “Splash,” something tells me you’re going to find this latest piece of material to be a strong continuation of the campaign this crew first set off on a number of years ago. 

This beat is overwhelming in spots, even in the case of the acapella “Hold This L,” but I think that it needed to be in order for Conceptz to really drive the mood home. There’s definitely a lot less chills without the placement of the rigid groove in this arrangement, and although the master mix is a little suffocating in spots (partly for this precise reason), this too is important to facilitate an experimental canvas atop which the players can paint us as angular a narrative as they want.

This composition is as much about calling out the posers as it is igniting something personal within the listeners, and if you consider the fact that most rap tracks can only do one or the other successfully, it becomes quite impossible to dismiss the duality of “Hold This L” as a lucky twist of fate. Normally I would have wanted more out of the bassline, but the minimalistic presence of low-end tones works well for one major reason – with the charisma of the other components as well-preserved as it is, adding in a virtuosic line beneath the drums would have made everything here cluttered. It takes a lot of ability to pull something as complicated and yet simple as this is together, and I think the depth of the production technique is but one element indicating as much in this single. 

I hadn’t heard much from Conceptz in a little while, but it’s good to see that they’ve been riding out the quarantine with a creative spirit as integral to their accomplishments as their natural God-given studio gifts are. “Hold This L” sees them killing it harder than they ever have before, setting a solid standard for other alternative rappers on both coastlines, and adventuring away from the mainstream mundane once more for what could be their most exciting three minute jams I’ve had the chance to review since the start of 2021. 

Garth Thomas