Hayward “Shrimpnose” (2019)

Whenever I studied during the formative years of my associate’s degree, I blared the most mindless music I could acquire. Often, this was metal music: deathcore, slam metal, and pop-punk (just to sprinkle some joy into my listening), as well.

My best friend, an audio tech major, went through high school making beat tapes of lo-fi hip-hop, though I didn’t really know what that was at the time. I just called it “instrumental” with a touch of jazz influence. After hitting a stride with hip-hop in college, lo-fi appeared again, but it was not in-my-face like some of the hip-hop I enjoyed was. I almost thought it was a joke that lo-fi hip-hop was so pinnacle to college students studying, but maybe I was just annoyed that I was so late to the game, that I was studying in the wrong way by not relaxing to smooth beats.

This week’s record, “Hayward,” by lo-fi hip-hop artist Shrimpnose, is some of the most atmospherically pleasing lo-fi there is. The vinyl static that signals the tone for most lo-fi isn’t a prominent feature; instead, Shrimpnose evokes soft piano tones and string melody samples that don’t overstay their welcome. If you’ve listened to enough Idealism, you’ll find that Shrimpnose carries a similar emotive tone throughout his discography, too. These are beats that fit specifically with each other, for each other, rather than just a random collection of tracks.

Perhaps this also connects to the inherent problem of genre. The music I used to study didn’t need to be original or amazing—I wasn’t concerned with quality. Every musical genre suffers from stagnation. After years of being critical about so many different kinds of music, when I listen to lo-fi hip-hop now, I find myself not concerned for critique. As a genre, it lacks self-awareness because it’s not trying to be genre-bending. It bears a specific purpose, something that other genres modally lack.

So when I put a Shrimpnose, Saib, or Flughand tape on my Spotify queue, and read from my textbooks for an indefinite time, I wonder what’s changed. The immersion of studying is still as tenuous as ever, but when I hear the minute long “awakening” by Shrimpnose, I think that, somehow, I’ve grown. That however long it takes, or however many dull records we have to hear, we are still growing.