When an indie rock star decides to make a rap record on the side, you should probably be suspicious. (Shout out to Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be.) But Samuel T. Herring, the endlessly charismatic singer for the heroic Baltimore synthpop dramatists Future Islands, has been rapping since long before Future Islands were even remotely famous. Over the years, Herring has made a whole lot of music under the name Hemlock Ernst, and he’s got tracks with people like Madlib, JPEGMAFIA, and Open Mike Eagle. Today, Herring releases his full-length rap debut.
Over the past few years, Herring has been working with Kenny Segal, a gifted LA-based indie-rap producer, on the collaborative LP Back At The House. (A few months ago, Segal teamed up with Brooklyn rapper billy woods on Hiding Places, arguably 2019’s best rap album.) Together, Herring and Segal have made an LP of thoughtful, contemplative rap music.
There’s absolutely no irony in Herring’s rapping; he sincerely explores things like relationships and depression. Herring calls back to a lot of rap classics — the first bar on the album is a “Rapper’s Delight” quote — and sometimes verges into how powerful croon. But there’s probably some irony in the fact that Back At The House features more guitars than any Future Islands albums. Segal chops up a lot of bluesy acoustic guitars over the course of the album. It’s a truly pretty record, an impressive display from two artists who have found a real middle ground. We’ve already posted the early tracks “Down” and “Addicted Youth,” and you can stream the whole album below.
Back At The House is out now on Ruby Yacht, the label run by R.A.P. Ferreira, the artist formerly known as milo.