Benjamin Lasky, also known as Quadeca, has had one of the most interesting artistic trajectories I’ve ever seen. Many bands and artists are known for innovation within the context of their own work, genre, or music in general — The Beatles, Radiohead, and Björk come to mind — but the shift that Quadeca has made from the beginning of his musical career is truly inspiring.

Lasky began in the YouTube rap scene and was known for his impressions of mainstream rappers and his fast flow. While he certainly had a knack for rapping, much of what he was doing was nothing new, and generally felt pretty derivative of rappers like Eminem or Logic. However, things changed on his 2021 album “From Me to You,” which saw Lasky making massive production improvements that made his work stand out from his contemporaries. 

The following year, he released “I Didn’t Mean To Haunt You,” an ambitious concept record that kept some of his hip-hop roots but incorporated influences from folktronica, indie rock, shoegaze, art pop, and other wildly varied genres. The leap in quality from the beginning of his career to this album was remarkable. “I Didn’t Mean To Haunt You” was praised heavily in online music circles and received some positive attention from critics as well. 

Now, in 2024, he has released “SCRAPYARD,” a mixtape of songs that weren’t quite fit for “I Didn’t Mean To Haunt You” and also don’t match with whatever future releases he has planned. The rollout for this project was a bit tumultuous, but the reception to the released singles was incredibly positive, and after listening to the record multiple times, it’s easy to see why.

Considering that this is a mixtape of odds and ends and not a formal album, it’s incredible just how high-quality and interesting all of these songs are. However, a gripe I have with the album is that there are a few tracks that feel a bit unpolished or underdeveloped; given the nature of the project, it’s not the most cohesive listen. That said, this is easily one of the most creatively-produced and unique-sounding albums I’ve listened to in a long time.

Describing the sound of “SCRAPYARD” is a bit difficult, not only because of the sonic variety throughout the album but also because of the varied influences Lasky incorporates. The production is lush and evokes feelings of nature and isolation, with busy electronic textures supporting lilting guitars and hits of distorted bass on numerous tracks. The production is cluttered, but Lasky knows what he’s doing — these songs don’t feel needlessly overdone, but intricately layered with strong attention to detail. Some songs have a more traditional vocal rap delivery, while others have a shaking emotional delivery (similar to Bright Eyes’ Conner Oberst) or heavy autotune that is fitting for a hyperpop project.

Choosing highlights is also difficult, given that this project is, for the most part, wall-to-wall amazing songs. “A LA CARTE” sports a busy instrumental and a wavering vocal on the chorus, as well as a strong feature from fellow experimental pop artist brakence. “WAY TOO MANY FRIENDS” is more of a traditional rap song, but with strangely melancholic instrumentals, including chiming keyboards and touches of ambience. “UNDER MY SKIN” has massive, atmospheric bursts of instrumentation on the choruses that evoke textures reminiscent of shoegaze, while “TEXAS BLUE” (featuring Kevin Abstract of Brockhampton fame) has layered vocal refrains, making for a powerful and emotional conclusion to the project.

The lyrics are strong throughout “SCRAPYARD” as well. Lasky laments common Gen Z anxieties with self-awareness and a knack for metaphor. Many of the tracks seem to deal with feelings of heartbreak as well, and Lasky manages to stray away from cliches while still getting his message across. 

Some notable moments for me included the aforementioned “A LA CARTE” where the opening lines of “My favorite poem was the one I read to you/From the teleprompter on the tongue of my shoe/My flashbacks are a touch more resolute/Declaring thumb wars in the pocket of my suit,” which makes for great imagery and feels straight out of the Death Cab for Cutie playbook. 

On “GUESS WHO,” Lasky gets a bit more tongue-in-cheek and braggadocious as he raps, “All these years still here, they said I was naive / Meetings where they pushing buttons but never rewind me / Cause they couldn’t tell a masterpiece from a ‘type beat’ / Bunch of glorified interns in assigned seats.” The tonal variety in the lyrics, as well as their consistent quality, prove that Lasky’s pen game matches up with his production and vocal delivery.

All in all, “SCRAPYARD” is a strange but beautiful mixtape from Quadeca. It’s not going to be for everyone given its eclecticism, but I highly recommend you give it a listen. It’s a record that will stick with you long after it’s done playing, and one of the most unique listens you’ll likely ever have.

For fans of 100 Gecs, JPEGMAFIA, Bright Eyes

Overall rating: 9/10

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