Props to The Needle Drop for scooping Ice Cold Water, an EP from Cleveland duo Smoke Screen. The EP sounds just as refreshing as the title, and is awash with dope lyrical content and an eclectic musical tinge on the beats, clearly the result of good teamwork.
That’s not to say that rappers Mooke and Chemist, who also produced all but one track on the project, are bopping and weaving over this thing like The Beastie Boys. Rather, they excel by displaying their own unique styles and complimenting each other’s thoughts. On “Ice Cold Water,’ the first and arguably best track, Mooke kicks off this tag team with a great finger-pointer: “Everybody and they mama wanna get some/everybody want the honey ’til it get stung/but don’t nobody wanna ever roll they sleeves up/they rather party all the time and get geeked up.”
Likewise, Chemist holds up the latter end: “back to the raps, attack tracks with passion/laugh at the cats who wax supreme fashion.” The rap tag-teaming gets even better on “Blur,” where they both detail their psychedelic, almost astral experiences when “cheebin’ on the herb,” or on “It Don’t Stop” where they easily trade off bars about their unyielding torrent of great content.
And the beats, a huge plus from their group collaboration, single-handedly uphold the cool, youthful exuberance that Smoke Screen carries. It’s easy to recognize their conscious effort to produce solid instrumentation that satisfies not only the more free-flowing stylings of Mooke or the aggressive battleground stance from Chemist, but also something that sounds fun and vibrant on its own. The title track instantly hits with a whizzing vinyl scratch and pounding drums, soon followed by a block-shaking bassline.
“The Ave” has an amateurish beatbox break surrounded by whirring synths and a rythmic spark effect. “Smoke and Lazers” touts a sinister, dubstep-influenced beat with a buzzing synth line and a two-tone drum and bass to keep rhythm for Chemist and Mooke’s dizzying wordplay. Each song has a short prologue that lets the track’s feeling seep in before the verses come in, and two tracks, “Blur” and “Smoke and Mirrors,” have an extra instrumental tagged to the end a la Pete Rock that keeps things flowing.
In fact, the album flows, quite literally, like a cool stream. From the backstreet wild style of the introduction to the extraterrestrial essence of the the ending and even on the call-and-response group vocal for the hooks, Smoke Screen knows how to curate a 20-minute that vibes perfectly and feels oh so good. Even though each rapper, guests included, brings his own bag of tricks, it always transitions smoothly without any jarring inconsistencies. When a dude drops a line like “ice cold cinnamon spice but whole heaven with microphone rhythms and pipes with gold lettuce” without throwing off his previous verse, that’s a miracle in and of itself. Ice Cold Water stands as testament that music can have style without sacrificing creativity.