The precocious Chester Watson has seemingly remained out of the bounds of rap’s radar; a lack of attention that could be framed, in addition to his music’s pillaring features (a tongue-twisting low-key rhyme, impending, decrepit instrumentals), as an ode to the DOOM-ish alternative underground sphere from which he scarcely crawls out—as much as he, as any other rapper, would grimace at the easy albeit lofty comparison. This board-hopper, apt for a Stones Throw landing as he is, goes unmasked; Watson’s musical project sounds like it could loosely stem from his Midwestern origins, less from his current Florida residency. As mentioned, his stock in trade alternates between his lyrical malleability and leery production chops, and with mixtapes like last year’s recommended Tin Wooki, wherein his own beats accounted for more than half of the extensive 28-track list, the final product is usually something to be consumed twice over: once to gape at an otherworldly snare or dodgy loop, and then to shudder at the rapping-half’s wry malevolence and follow his metal-tipped tongue. It’s not exactly unfortunate than that Guru Vol. 4 is another collection of just beats.
Guru’s fourth volume is only the third available as far as we can tell. Watson put out Vol. 2 just as many years ago and that remains to be the ostensible beginning of the series. If these instrumental mixtapes are themed, it’s subtlety so—Vol. 2 took on a bit of trippy vibe with left field textures and bass lines ripped from a Nightmares on Wax record, while its successor’s melodic/sample focal point generally centered around the Far East. But what Watson is arguably best at and does the most, in a production capacity, is icy gloom. It’s also the most common thread that has ran through the series up through this new volume. At twenty-something minutes a pop, Vol. 4 is a constant shuffle between unnerving compartments of atmospheres, as if these instrumentals were Watson’s way of retrospectively documenting a perilous subterranean escape from the layers of his conception of hell. What’s more killer? “No samples were used in the making of this project.”
Guru Vol. 4 was released on May 9.