Artwork by Zoë Fenn - Cover Article Artwork by Kate Tiley

Artwork by Zoë Fenn - Cover Article Artwork by Kate Tiley

by James Ammirato

You might know Boston-based rapper LEECH for any of his numerous singles released in the last year, his former persona, Dufus, or the brilliant video for his single “Hometown Killer,” released last November. If not, his debut album, UNDERBITE drops today, August 1, and you don’t want to miss out on it. UNDERBITE is the first full-length project from LEECH, and at just over 20 minutes, the record is a great debut from an artist with no formal training, but who clearly loves the rap genre and has immersed himself in his newfound persona. 

A product of his diverse influences, UNDERBITE finds the artist exploring several different delivery styles and flows. The opening track, “Bongo” features a sputtery bassline and a steady beat that marches forward with LEECH as he raps the hook, “What’s up? What’s good? How you been man?” Instantly I’m reminded of the goofy yet technical abilities of Injury Reserve, and later the straightforward, cut-to-the-chase style heard on Tyler, The Creator’s most recent project, Igor. However, in the second song, “Mystery Meat,” LEECH throws away his previous style entirely and comes out with a Brockhampton-esque banger with an extremely clever skit at the beginning, showing that he doesn’t take himself too seriously despite being a skilled MC. The track features a half-rapped half-sung verse from Zoë with 2 dots, reminiscent of a dialogue between the two artists, with LEECH ad-libbing in response to Zoë’s bars. Just when you think the song is over, he comes back with another verse, dragging out his words and providing just the right amount of sloppy to what he spits. 

That’s not to say that all the songs on the project are hard-hitting, though. Some of the best cuts, in my opinion, are the more dancy ones, like “Arp-Disco,” which features an extremely well-produced video created by Matt Zavist. The video shows firsthand that though the production style is different than some of the bangers on the album, we still get the same snarl from LEECH that we came to hear, as well as some chip-tuned vocals and an arp synth/bass combo that knocks the listener out with a one-two punch. Another one of my favorite tracks from the softer side of UNDERBITE is “Lung,” a smooth R&B track containing an amazing arpeggiated synth tone and dreamy sung vocals, clearly displaying LEECH’s versatility as not just a rapper, but a well-versed vocalist overall. 

The album is almost entirely produced by Elda, a 20-year-old producer/engineer who works with Nothing Productions out in Weston, Massachusetts. In Elda, LEECH has found his perfect creative partner. It’s clear they both have a vast wealth of expertise between them, despite their combined age of 40, and this is where LEECH can really start to shine. When an artist has so many influences and proves that they can thrive in any creative environment, it’s important they have a counterpart that can complement their drive and keep up with any new ideas that they bring to the table. We’ve seen it countless times before, with producer/rapper duos like Madlib and Freddie Gibbs, Kenny Segal and Milo, and Pi’erre Bourne and Playboi Carti. Although UNDERBITE’s tracklist may come off as scattered to some, I would counter that the project makes up for its chaotic nature with the sheer creativity shown by all parties involved, be it from the Chicago rap style cut “Stolen Goods,” or the bleaker “Marauder.” 

On UNDERBITE, LEECH has clearly found his wheelhouse. With Elda’s executive production and features from local artists Zoë with 2 Dots and Edward Glen, not to mention Little Rock, Arkansas’s Banzai Florist, the end product is a well-rounded record with something for everyone, be it smooth pop vocals or sharply delivered hooks. After hearing this, I can’t wait to see the next steps LEECH takes in his budding career.

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