The first three tracks on Confidence contain, among other things, a winking lyrical reference to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”, a prominent sample from Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me”, and a monologue by Kermit the Frog—not the kind of sources likely to endear an album to hip-hop’s core audience. That those sources are so ingeniously deployed speaks to the particular brilliance of Friends With the Help, two rappers (Low Lux and Young Nige) and a DJ (K-Rec) testifying to hip-hop’s enduring malleability.
After racking up an impressive 6,300-plus YouTube views for last year’s “East Van Shit” video, the local crew returns with its proper full-length debut, which channels the spirit of ’90s-era indie-rap with its gimmick-free, skills-intensive focus. Along the way, we get a couple of Kid Koala–style turntable interludes (“K-Lude pt. 3” and “pt. 4”), some rugged synth-and-drum-machine workouts (“I Got a New Friend”), and, best of all, contemplative midtempo tunes showcasing Lux and Nige’s razor-sharp introspection (“As the Light Hits You” and “Love Thought”). Confidence succeeds where so many other local rap albums fail, revelling in an atmosphere of nerdish craftsmanship and pot-fuelled tomfoolery that’s particular to this place and time. Now if only its makers could do something about that awkward band name.