Rapper Neftali and producer Luno J have an intriguing history in the local music scene, prior to releasing their recent six-song collaborative project, The DramaticNeftali, who started in the scene seven years ago, was a member within the now defunct alternative hip-hop group, FREAK THE MIIGHTY. Lately, he’s releasing solo music as well as fronting Buffalo hardcore band, JEWELTONE. Luno J, a recent transplant to the city in 2021, joined local powerhouse rap group Free Music Party soon after. He began making a name for himself with his unique production style fusing influences from EDM, R&B and hip hop. 

Luno said of a specific musical inspiration for The Dramatic, “I really like Flume and in particular the tracks he does with rappers because it’s kind of an untapped genre of EDM-influenced experimental tracks with rapping over top.” 

This influence is evident in the intro track, “Too Late,” which combines hip hop lyricism and the raw explosive energy of EDM. Neftali’s weighty minute-long verse complemented by spacious, airy production, sets the tone for the EP like a manifesto. After this verse, the beat explodes into a chaotic, danceable future bass drop. Neftali’s melodic delivery and Luno’s upbeat drums infuse the experimental hip-hop song with a bouncy electro-pop energy. 

The following song, “Dead Air,” features a whirring synth trapped in an off-kilter rhythm. It hums chaotically like a helicopter wobbling out of control. The track was originally supposed to be a one-off single, before it became a creative lift-off point for the remainder of The Dramatic.

The poppiest track, “Love You Right” features a bouncy flow and bright pixelated instrumental that’s impossible not to nod along to. Neftali’s charismatic sing-song delivery and clever lyrics are a total earworm. Luno’s synth solo that follows is a glistening otherworldly projection with retrofuturistic undertones. This idea of nostalgia with a modern, sci-fi-like twist goes in tandem with the title of their release show, Memories of the Future. The show featured a performance from Chango4, of Buffalo hip hop duo, C4W2, reciting their enriching spoken word feature on “Interlude (Sky).” Neftali said:

“We knew their voice would sound perfect over the instrumental,” while Luno added “I truly may have teared up the first time I put them into the project file and listened.”

Chango4 said:

“This is Neftali’s coming out of sorts as a solo artist in his own right. This project shows his ability to be fluid within music-making and styles of expression and the poem I wrote speaks to a certain feeling of letting go and embracing newness.”

The interlude sets the stage for the penultimate song, a noise-rap banger titled “The Holy Ghost.” It’s a direct result of the themes of self-acceptance and rebirth explored by Chango4. Neftali said:

The Holy Ghost is an all-out assault on the world but it’s not coming from a place of anger. It’s more so an expression of confidence in a chaotic environment.” 

We can see this in the lyric “I see the world through a blurred lens, so I’ll probably paint murals when the world ends.” 

The closer, “Brave New World,” named after the 1932 dystopian novel, is a multipart electro hip-hop epic that expresses a newfound confidence about the future. At the experimental song’s midpoint, Luno’s production immerses listeners with loud choir-like blasts of synth. Afterwards, a dramatic silence precedes Neftali’s victory lap of a final verse. It’s easy to imagine an insane live performance of this song, featuring cinematic meditative moments as well as a mosh pit level intensity.

The Dramatic is a beautifully visceral piece of art from valuable creatives that deserve respect and attention. It’s a project that is impossible to box in and difficult to stop listening to once you start. Start today by checking out The Dramatic on Soundcloud (below), or on Spotify or Apple Music.