Sengo Muramasa, legendary 16th century samurai, was said to wield a cursed blade. As the story goes, every time Sengo unsheathed his weapon, the blade demanded a blood sacrifice before returning to the safety of its scabbard. If Sengo failed to murder an opponent, the blade would force Sengo’s hand upon himself.
Due to the passing on of the namesake, London-based producer Alex Crossan, street name Mura Masa, carries the same curse. Crossan previewed his upcoming album R.Y.C. (Raw Youth Collage)—set to release January 17—with three single tracks and their subsequent music videos, each as sharply playable as the last. Through threat of apparent death, Crossan’s latest project plays loud, and draws subsequent blood.
“I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again (ft. Clairo)”
Crossan opens his release with the EDM-pop single “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again.” The track, featuring the lo-fi vocals of bedroom-pop artist Clairo, plays like an acoustic emo tearjerker—something of the Soccer Mommy or Snail Mail realm. Come bridge, Crossan adds a series of claps that staccato against Clairo’s library-like a capella, adding intrigue to an otherwise run-of-the mill first 30 seconds. As we hit the chorus, Clairo’s vocals warp to a syrupy warble, which is matched with a drawn out synth buzz. With a kind of “blown-out speaker” vibe, “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” legitimizes itself, drawing enough crimson to satisfy Sengo’s curse.
Unfortunately, the accompanying video is a bore. Playing like a Clairo praising session, the video relies too heavily on editing distortions to leave much of an impact.
“No Hope Generation”
“No Hope Generation,” the second pre-album single, is a poppy anthem to Gen Z nihilism. With hand-clapping, foot-stomping energy, “No Hope Generation” wins the day with a self-aware, depressing charm that is sure to pull at the Internet generation’s heart strings. The single features none other than Crossan’s vocals teased out over a Drum and Bass breakbeat. The entire thing feels like montage-fuel, as it is endlessly kitchen-floor danceable. Crossan’s lyrics are winking and sing-able, as he proclaims on the chorus: “Gimme a bottle and a gun / And I’ll show you how it’s done. / And if you look real close / You’ll see it’s all a joke.”
The accompanying music video features a puzzling, yet fascinating, narrative between two female leads. As the two run through dreary scene after dreary scene, set in the overcast permanency of the UK, we are met with intelligent, artistic shots: snapshots of true beauty amidst a world of gray. There is one scene in particular where a male character dances shirtless to the track that I find endlessly re-playable. If nothing else, I recommend watching for the simple sleekness of the costuming.
“Deal Wiv It (ft. slowthai)”
We end with the daring “Deal Wiv It.” Genre-less and bold, this track contains rhyme-less vocals from UK rapper slowthai. The vocals feel like liquid energy, delivered with the focus of spoken word, but with the raw volume of Troy-esque battle speech. Crossan opens with a muted bass line, and then slowthai comes in with his shouted musings, never to leave the track until its closing seconds. The chorus plays like a 2016 DJ Snake “drop,” chopped vocals and all, but with an injection of a kind of punk fuel that keeps it from turning into the soundtrack to a Nissan commercial. Go and listen to “Deal Wiv It.” It’s bizarre, fun, reflective, eloquent, angry, and it just may be my favorite single of 2019.
The music video for “Deal Wiv It,” in its second half, features a single running shot of a slow motion slowthai that is absolutely glorious. If you haven’t seen the UK rapper on-screen, “Deal Wiv It” serves as a perfect introduction.
Crossan outdoes himself with a three-track release that could have stood on its own as an LP. Thankfully, there is even more on the way with the release of R.Y.C. But, until January, these three cut deep enough to please Sengo’s katana. Whether you need an emo-pop track with distorted flair, something nihilistic to dance to, or three minutes of slowthai poetically shouting at you, Crossan is truly making art for the music omnivore.