There may not be a rapper as good at intertwining the ongoing Internet age and rap culture as Memphis native Cities Aviv. His newest effort, Come to Life, only confirms this, with beats provided by Aviv himself, B_L_A_C_K_I_E_, RPLD GHSTS, and others, all of which glitch and glide their way through a thoroughly entertaining 15 tracks. “Merge with the void and don’t ever look back,” Aviv said about the mantra of Come to Life, a fitting description of an album that dips into some dark places but comes out on the other end as a worthwhile exploration into the depths of woozy production and New York influences of a heartland-bred rapper. The album succeeds even when the focus isn’t on MC Gavin Mays, as the production is as strong as that from any rap album in the past few months.
Whereas Cities Aviv’s last few records have been more sonically challenging, this one flies by with the strongest cohesion of Mays’ shout-rap style and the genre-bending production that he consistently finds himself on. Lead single “URL” could be a huge radio single if the song came out in 2020, but here it’s relegated to the blogosphere. “Do you know what’s good?/ You should,” he raps, almost begging listeners to realize that he might be one of the most under-appreciated talents in the game today. “Perpetuate the Real” is reminiscent of his previous releases, somewhere between cloud rap and an R&B beat. There isn’t even a need to rhyme over tracks like this, more free verse with dope backing tracks, and that’s where Mays finds his surest footing. It’s encouraging to see an artist become more confident as his career goes on, but that’s never been a problem for Cities Aviv. He’s a confident guy with prodigious verses backed by some of the more adventurous production available.
Maybe it’s for the best that Aviv is primarily hyped on blogs, as he’s a self-confessed creature of the Internet age. Whereas other rappers raised on dotcoms usually use that as a well from which to draw references, rappers like Cities Aviv, Le1f, and to a certain extent the now defunct Das Racist let that serve as their muse, influencing production styles and lyricism. Tracks like “URL” and “Fool” would be right at home as backing tracks for an old NES game like Contra or Metroid, with Aviv’s dexterous flow fitting snugly into the digital world. The Internet is a big place, but Cities Aviv is here to highlight all the best parts, and in doing so he’s carved out a niche that no one fits as well as he does.
Essential Tracks: “URL”, “Fool”, and “Don’t Ever Look Back”