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Review: Flaco, IKWYDLS

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Flaco
I Know What You Did Last Summer (IKWYDLS)

Flaco spent New Year's Eve releasing his latest mixtape, IKWYDLS, which seems just about right for the Muncie rapper. If Flaco is the weirdest emcee working in Indiana right now, then he's also the most prolific. So it makes sense that he would squeeze in his third mixtape of the year just before the calendar turns, on a night when most people are nowhere near the Internet. 

 IKWYDLS has been dubbed Flaco's first official foray into hip-hop surrealism, but unofficially, he's been making surreal rap for a minute now.

Aesthetically, IKWYDLS utilizes many of the same techniques as Cheto, the ADHD mixtape Flaco dropped in July, just with new content and better execution. He's become a master at flipping different rap sounds into his own, manic stripped-down style, exemplified on tracks like "COLONEL CHI," a take on Chicago drill with wobbly tones that practically sound drunk. "Oh my God, I made a banger by an accident," he wails in his first verse, which is how the best Flaco songs feel: totally random at first, until you listen and realize, oh shit, this is kinda hot.

The emcee's grind is well-established –– this is his 10th full solo tape –– but working the local scene can be exhausting, and after four years of doing nothing but putting in work, Flaco sounds ready to make a move.

"Try to tell a broke nigga to have some patience," he spits matter-of-factly on "reaching," just two songs after lamenting "gotta promote, or a local nigga I'll remain" on "CIRCA 88" and calls Indiana a "hip-hop Himalaya" on the bonus track. Flaco's shift from locally minded to globally minded is a small one, but it shows he's ready to take the next step. That shows up in his songcraft as well.

While Flaco has always boasted crazy bars, each track on IKWYDLS sounds like a fully realized song, and not like you opened "Thong Song" and a clip from Caddyshack in two different YouTube tabs. That is to say, compared to the constant cribbing and ad-libbing of his past work, the songs on IKWYDLS sound almost reserved. On Cheto, even Flaco's simple songs felt wacky, almost always laced with some kind of novelty, be it in sample or song. There are a number of remarkably low-key songs on IKWYDLS, including "Paradise," the tape's single, which features a single sample loop, some boom-bap drums, and pitched-down vocals. By dialing things back a tad, Flaco gives the listener some headspace to digest his many styles, and to hear his laser sharp rhymes.

IKWYDLS represents a step forward artistically for the young rapper – something that coincides with a apparent desire to step out of his local scene as well. The best way to make a change is to get started, and by dropping a new tape with a new mindset on the literal first day of the new year, Flaco is doing just that.

Flaco will celebrate the release of IKWYDLS on January 31 at the Hi-Fi with Bored and Ghost Town.

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