Niso Tozzi aka ni_so is a young Italian producer who’s been producing hip hop beats for the past few years. Now living in Bologna, he fell in love with afro and black music during his university years in the Netherlands spent digging and discovering the treasures of the classic Afroamerican canon: hip hop, jazz, soul, funk. He was also fascinated by African music such as afrobeat and ethio-jazz, as well as genres not always associated with hip hop, like cumbia and bossa nova.
This heterogenous background, together with his training as a drummer, is palpable in Seeds, released by the Bologna-based Ragoo Records.
Across seven tracks (plus five remixes), Seeds presents a producer confident with his skills and consistent with his sound. In both cases, a personal take on instrumental hip hop is the winning card. ni_so relies on the traditional quest for jazz and funk samples, but broadens the spectrum sampling heavily – and mostly – from afrobeat and ethio-jazz; this results in an EP that tickles familiar tropes while at the same time leaping into territories not so commonly explored by instrumental hip hop. The sonic palette isn’t only extended spatially by giving prominence to the African motherland, but also temporally as ni_so manages to wink at the current trap dominance by recurring to the typical trap punchy snare and triplets. He avoids conforming to the trite tropes of lo-fi hip hop (if anything, because the EP is carefully arranged and produced), as well as he abstains from a sterile emulation of both ‘90s productions and contemporary trap.
“Palm tree” starts things off in the name of afrobeat, while “Circus” and “Exotic jamming (fka eyes and more)” feature catchy vocal loops at the end, although the former is the most trap-oriented and the latter the jazziest/funkiest of the release. “5pm” is this EP’s earworm, and the last three tracks come closer to a soulful end: “Till next time” is modern neo-soul, “So-lo” sounds like the son of J Dilla and Onra, and the final “Over” features the R&B (almost trip hop-esque) singing of Amaka.
In addition, there are five remixes which push the original tracks into different territories: “Till next time” becomes a smoky 90’s beat and then a deep house slow jam, respectively in the hands of Papa Soul and Fulvio – Ragoo Records head. Selva gives a Brainfeeder-like twist, and finally things get suited for the dancefloor with Brine, who turns “5pm” into a nuvdisco track for sunsets, and with the slightly lo-fi, acid tinged, house remix provided by No Joke Radio-affiliate Paolo Gorni.
Seeds is an imaginary land where African music, hip hop beatmaking and modern sensibility merge together in the name of groove, with a feel-good attitude underneath. Looking at the past being aware of the present, Seeds is a solid debut showing an organic feel and a pulsing heart – and drums, of course.
Lorenzo Montefinese // NJR