The terms “prolific” and “slow burn” don’t typically belong together, but VRITRA’s career arc has been anything but typical. His name might most notably ring bells for his former Odd Future affiliation, but he’s amassed a list of over 20 projects in his ten years as a solo artist. Most of his discography is a logical extension of the early Odd Future ambiance; spontaneously recorded stock sounds with a DIY spirit that borders on antagonistic.
It feels odd framing the last three years as a late career resurgence for an artist who’s barely 30, but his work with producer Wilma Archer on 2019’s Burd was a welcome detour outside of VRITRA’s comfort zone. Trading his impulsive, dance-inspired hip-hop for Archer’s methodical, mellow, electronic jazz forced his lyricism to take top priority and dig himself out of emotional lows in the process. His pen continued to take precedence on 2020’s SONAR, produced entirely by Leon Sylvers IV, where he felt he had the space to prove himself lyrically.
His latest EP, VOID!, marks a partial return to self-production for the first time since 2019’s FEMME, and while its sounds mirror his previous work on the surface, it’s evident he’s grown in his time away. The production still utilizes synths that could score a Nintendo 64 soundtrack to create a lo-fi, gloomy atmosphere. His lethargic vocal inflection still trudges through boastful self-affirmation. But there’s a newfound intentionality as he balances self-production and rapping. His beats once felt like manic bursts of creative energy, and vocals only existed to check a box on song completion. VOID! forgoes that immediate expression for something more calculated; these are fully fleshed out compositions that stick with you.
Where those older projects implied you should dance or nod along, it’s a visceral reaction here. You can’t help but get a little shuffle in your shoulders on tracks like “ROVER” (07:35 in if you’re listening to the single-track version on streaming platforms). You’re liable to break your neck once the drums drop on “FROM FIRE” (12:10). Quotable bars might not be his primary appeal, but you’ll catch yourself mumbling lyrics like, “Look to the lord inside myself, and I met the devil doing treble and bassline” from “WHEAT” (03:44) hours after listening based purely on the strength of its melody.
He’s less concerned with his recent work’s vivid, emotional catharsis, but the art of taking time has translated over. VOID! works because it examines the strengths of what he’s often done and tweaks the formula just enough. Exploring new sonic textures over the last three years has allowed him to find spaces for puzzle pieces he’s had all along. VRITRA is reinventing himself within the familiar.