Over the past decade, a white hesher from middle-of-nowhere Michigan has quietly become one of America’s most influential underground rappers. Around 2010, Elmo O’Connor started releasing music under the name Bones, and he’s been frantically cranking out music online ever since. Bones raps about depression and drugs in jittery stop-start flows over lo-fi beats that draw on folk and emo and metal. He’s a foundational influence on things like the South Florida SoundCloud-rap scene. And while he’s worked with big names like A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown, Bones mostly continues to operate on a fundamentally DIY level. He’s a compelling cult figure.
Today, Bones has released a new album-length project called Offline. (Right now, it’s up on SoundCloud but not on any of the proper streaming services.) One song, “Timberlake,” has a guest appearance from Three 6 Mafia co-founder Juicy J, one of the inspirations behind Bones’ shadowy style. Most of the time, though, this is deeply insular music — Bones muttering coldly over acoustic guitars and ghostly samples.
If you’re not already a part of the Bones cult, it’s strange and fascinating to dive into music that’s this weird and personal while, at the same time, being potentially super-commercial. (It’s amazing that no major label has signed Bones up yet.) Offline is a disorienting listen, but it’s also a whole lot more immersive than some of Bones’ past releases. (Like almost everyone else who releases a lot of music, Bones can be wildly inconsistent.) If nothing else, Offline is an album worth investigating. Check it out below.
Offline will probably show up on the streaming services eventually, but that SoundCloud stream is the purest way to experience it.