148’s new album Sampati begins off strong with an opening track in “Topeka Vibe” more than worthy of its status as a lead single, and while the relaxed rhythm of this piece is a nice teaser for what’s soon to come in the ensuing tracklist, it’s easily one of the sweeter features of the entire record. Sampati is an album structured around its inviting beats, and while 148 don’t mind dabbling in trap and drill when it affects the sonic narrative they’re cultivating, their overall theme here is anything but tension-fueled. Contrarily, this is definitely a sublime slice of chill hip-hop for listeners of all tastes.

“Body Rock” and “MIA” incorporate island influences that blend dancehall with elements of east coast hip-hop strangely more surreal in this setting than they would be amidst a conventional backdrop, but the fluidity of the tracklist remains steady thanks to the solid vocal work here. It’s admittedly rare when a rap LP is as driven by melodicism as this work is, but then again, I don’t come across many acts as committed to a diversified profile as 148 is. It’s a nice change for their scene, and certainly something I could use more of as a critic.

“Bankulli” brings Hod in for the lone feature of the record, and I think the chemistry between these players speaks for itself in the big picture. “Wavy” is another fine choice for a single, and although “Luv 4 U” relies a little more on old school beats than I would normally appreciate in a progressive effort like this one, it doesn’t feel completely out of place in this album at all. These three songs don’t boast the forward-thinking conceptualism of the crossover “Pop It,” but making Sampati wasn’t about collecting a slew of singles for release; it’s about introducing us to who these guys are, front and back, creatively and intellectually.

“Odds” and “Summer Breeze” conclude Sampati with the most experimental compositional componentry of the record, but their alternative stylization was perhaps the best way to close out this first peek at 148’s sound. They’re still figuring out the details here, that much is obvious even at a distance, but when comparing the statements they’re making in Sampati against those that their closest rivals in North America and beyond are releasing this spring, they’ve got an edge that a lot of players only wish they could get their creative hands on.

Sebastian Cole