A few weeks ago, the Tribe Eternal and NVSV released the video for “Local Celebrity,” the first single from their collaborative album Mysterious Shit. The full project is out today, and it’s a good one.
I was having trouble picking just one track from Mysterious Shit to highlight, so I’m going to discuss the work as a whole. The reason it was impossible to isolate one song from the rest has to do with an observation that struck me upon first listen: the album has an incredible sense of thematic and sonic cohesion. You can tell that it was a true collaborative effort between a small group of creatives all working on the same wavelength; the mixing was done in-house by Tribe member Bilal Abbey, and the whole thing was mastered by Pittsburgh’s own INEZ. The album’s instrumentals, the bulk of which were concocted by NVSV himself (with a few contributions from Pittsburgh producers Nice Rec and Forest), contain drifting, moody melodies layered overtop beats that range from trap bangers to jazzy, freeform stutters. The grainy, snake-charming horn loop that winds its way through “Level Up” is haunting and hypnotic, while the lush keyboard washes of tracks like “Magic” and “Strawberry Moon” envelop the senses like a waking vaporwave dream.
The voices you hear on Mysterious Shit are determined and confident, but also frustrated; NVSV, Clara Kent, Bilal Abbey, and Pharaoh Lum are not here to make friends. Many of their lyrics discuss the dichotomy between authenticity and artifice, one that they see on display all around them. Bilal throws the gauntlet down on the frauds when he dismissively spits, “Yeah, they on the bill with us/But they all plastic,” during the refrain to “Plastic.” The woozy “Masked” (a track that would sound right at home on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN) is a slightly more philosophical take on the real-vs-fake issue; NVSV sets the bar high when he proclaims, “Every word I said the truest statement.” Kent displays a ferocity on Mysterious Shit that she only hinted at on her 2018 mixtape A U R A, breaking out an icy, scornful flow for “Clara’s Mad” and letting her voice morph into an exuberant growl on “Fool,” a raw, maximalist break from the album’s otherwise restrained atmosphere.
Big picture, each rapper brings something unique to the stylistic table; NVSV delivers his bars with a steely-eyed stare, Kent alternates between icy raps and warmly sung vocal lines, Bilal drops introspective wisdom in a melodic whisper, and Lum rounds things out with a raucous self-assuredness. Together, they populate the album’s sonic terrain with personality, poise, and conviction. Mysterious Shit is an impressively polished showcase of teamwork that lives up to the Tribe’s ethos of local collaboration and personal improvement. And, most importantly, it slaps.