LA-based hip hop artist Pharaoh Santana first appeared on our radar with his debut single, POP OUT, which hit the airwaves in 2018. With each new release, he has taught us to expect the unexpected. With his 2021 EP, PSP, he’s retained the soul and the wit found in his former releases and treated his fans to a brand-new sonic ambient indie trap experience.
PSP carries the hallmarks of a lo-fi hip hop record through the organic textures and intimacy offered through the minimal production. Yet, indie hip hop doesn’t come much smoother than the mesmerising tracks that are sure to lull you into a state of reflective serenity.
Track 1, Arvada Freestyle, featuring Cress Rilee, steps away from Western rhythms and serves as an intoxicating introduction to the 4-track release that keeps the grooves mellow and the beats cathartically arresting as Pharaoh Santana lays down the lyrical wisdom that he’s quickly becoming renowned for.
Track 2, Pretty Women, is a subversive ode to femininity and beauty where Pharaoh Santana holds his hands up to his vices, never being crass or misogynistic. Instead, he soulfully points out what a minefield dating can be in a hypersexual society, where sex can be used as a weapon, and people get left with scars.
Track 3, Zendaya, is the perfect summer chill hop track. As the smooth choral notes add to the ambience, Pharaoh Santana disrupts it with his strident lyrics that confront the type of person who always brings the drama instead of anything positive. Some people may pride themselves on the games they play, but Zendaya is enough to put anyone who takes pleasure in manipulation think twice.
Track 4, Tony Sparks, amps up the emotion from the former tracks and is undeniably the best introduction to the ingenuity contained in Santana’s almost haunting style on the EP. As the 90s-style RnB hip hop beats flow and glitch beneath his raw, honest vocals as he speaks of humility, you’ll get a sense that nothing was held back or added for prosaic effect. Instead, you’ll get to see how he can utilise tonal contrast to create a relatable and humanistic sense of conflict.
Pharaoh Santana’s EP, PSP, is now available to stream via Spotify.
Review by Amelia Vandergast