If you’re out exploring record shops in Buffalo, you might run into local hip hop artist puh-GEEZ who calls music havens like Soul Stop, Black Dots, and Apples and Oranges his home. He shops for his own enjoyment as well as picks up records for his DJ sets which he performs under the name, Knew’d.

Inspired by physical media, puh-GEEZ recently released his 2-sided project, LEVELS in segments. The first side dropped on September 21st of last year while the second half came out on March 17th this year. For Bandcamp listeners the entirety of the project has been available in full since the fall. About the release, the rapper and producer said:

“I think I made Side 1 available everywhere cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. Side-B was a little more personal in a way and I think I just wanted it to be more of an exclusive thing and whoever heard it, heard it. Then I got over all of that and made Side-B available everywhere.”

Side-A is composed of “senseless,” “grammar,” and “see-level,” three of puh-GEEZ’s best songs he’s released thus far. 

On the intro track, “senseless,” the rapper hits an interesting pocket within an off-kilter yet dancey rhythm. The rubbery bass line and spacey synth sounds combine for an experimental composition. If “senseless” excels in a balance of rhythm and melody, the following track, “grammar” is an exercise in crafting a transfixing atmosphere. “Grammar” is emotionally conflicted ambient-funk driven by a blissful synth tone and atmospheric thunder sounds that roll in the background. The final 20 seconds switches to a marching synth-heavy rhythm, one of puh-GEEZ’s most interesting production choices on the project.

“See-level” is a familiar zone for puh-GEEZ. It includes a jazzy horn sample combined with booming sub bass and unrelenting rap verses focused on self-progression. The music video is shot and directed by Jacob Smolinski, also known as local indie songster, Wylie Something. It’s a compelling production which brings the lyrics to life and crafts an intriguing late-night aesthetic. Both the A-side and B-side include slowed versions of the songs, as puh-GEEZ often draws from southern rap influences and Houston’s chopped and screwed style. Puh-GEEZ said:

“I release the slowed version of songs cause it gives the songs a whole new feel…I feel like it also makes the lyrics more understandable in a way.”

The B-side starts with “dazz,” a song sonically similar to “see-level” but with a different lyrical meaning and tone. The horn samples that sounded dusty and nostalgic on “see-level” exude a spicier personality on “dazz.” The second verse finds a sense of divine omniscience in attraction: “To feel the feels help me function / To feel the feels help me realize everything I feel is what I wanted / ‘Cause in this life we got choice / Coming from my inner voices / And you and I deserve to have the time of our life so lets make it right”

The final track “Vie d’amour,” is a luxurious song about hating someone for not loving you back. Even still, puh-GEEZ sounds like he’s on the final level here, learning to move on from the person in question and focusing on self-growth and his personal freedom instead. puh-GEEZ said:

“I would say there is a theme with all these songs. They kinda depict where I’m at in life with my art and just regular life as far as love, happiness and sadness. They all kinda touch on those things in a way.”

Stream LEVELS in its entirety on Bandcamp. Both Side-A and Side-B are available on Spotify and Apple Music.