Rapkot and Imaniac’s Fiery Debut
Review by Ellen Lee

Every rapper needs to release their “business card” EP – the EP that introduces them to the scene, but in a “call this number if you need me, but don’t need me” kind of way. As far as introductions go, Rapkot and Imaniac’s collaborative mixtape, titled Half-A**ed Mixtape, which dropped on Bandcamp in February, does the job perfectly in establishing who they are, as partners and individuals, and that they are most definitely not to be messed with.

Both collaborators, who operate together under the name “Half-A**ed Men”, are enigmatic personas whose social media channels offer scant clues of their backgrounds before the mixtape. Imaniac seems to be a semi-established presence on the local rap scene and makes up one of the four members of rap collective Kuyashii Entertainment. Some of his past works are scattered across YouTube, including Causing Traffic, a comedic rap about KL traffic that became a minor meme on 9Gag in 2019. Rapkot, on the other hand, remains an enigma; all that can be gleaned from his bio on Bandcamp is that he enlists his son’s toys among his production arsenal in his crusade against “the mediocre trash” that’s been released on streaming platforms recently. But H-AM is enough of an introduction in itself; all you need to know about them is what they want you to know.

The mixtape’s title is one of its many jokes. “Half-A**ed Mixtape” turned into an acronym makes “H-AM” (the meaning of which, uh, you can find out by listening to Kanye West and Jay-Z’s H.A.M. if you don’t already know), a knowing wink to listeners signalling that they are most certainly running at 100% capacity. With a “no hooks, no features, just beats & bars” spirit and a runtime of around eight minutes, it’s clear that this is where Imaniac really excels: not in crafting full songs according to customary formats, but in directing his focus solely on throwing the perfect punch. Each song emerges like a perfect, compact, shining apple.

Overall, the mixtape sounds a little bit like some of the early solo stuff from members of Los Angeles rap collective Odd Future, when the rhythmic talent was evident but the lyrical content hadn’t matured yet. Eminem circa The Slim Shady LP is also an obvious influence in Imaniac’s whiny inflection and in his playful sense of humour, like in the joke rap Stank & Broke. (He’s previously released his own version of Eminem’s The Real Slim Shady, titled Iman Ori.) Mostly, the bars contain the juvenile arrogance of most emerging rappers, but Imaniac’s unique selling point is his double entendres that come so quick and clean they’re nearly missed if you’re not fast enough to catch ’em. On Laksana Bulan, he crafts a particularly tight line: “My punches blow up ‘cos I ****ing land mine,” and then, as if dazzled by his own brilliance, follows this with, “Ya ya y’know that’s a double entendre”, to school anyone too slow to get it. But for those who do get it, it comes off as slightly unnecessary and faltering bragging. Being still pretty juvenile, Imaniac’s lyrics are littered with occasional lines that feel a little more filler and less killer, like the cliché “Sylvia Plath/oven” line on Gocoh Bey; his latent talent is yet to be awoken to its fullest potential.

He makes up for his fumbles with some genuinely funny lines, like “Smooth with words, I’ll sell a haircut to Flizzow” (referencing senior Malaysian MC Joe Flizzow’s radiant baldness), or “Vivy Yusof case, I write, you copy paste” (referencing the FashionValet founder who has been accused of plagiarising ideas from lesser-known creatives). Stank & Broke features as a locally-inflected joke rap in the same vein as 2019’s Causing Traffic, drawing on relatable touchstones of life as a B40 youth in Kuala Lumpur to produce lines like “Wanted blonde hair but it came out karat / Mintak discount when I pay my zakat”. By developing his talent for zig-zagging through the Malaysian cultural landscape and incisively locking his sights on the right topical references to immortalise in his lyrics, he’ll soon shore up a treasure trove of references that will make his raps way stronger and more relatable, instead of falling back on Western-imported cliches like Sylvia Plath and ovens.

Imaniac’s bars wouldn’t seem half as satisfying if they were left with a producer any less talented than Rapkot, whose production has been compared favourably to MF Doom by Azzief Khaliq over at NME Asia. Contrary to the customary trap beats that Imaniac seems used to rapping over, if his YouTube videos are to be taken as a standard, Rapkot has crafted a more textured and interesting audio terrain, allowing for his collaborator to make more impressive landings. The mixtape’s tunes range from inflections of the Nusantaran and Indian (is that a sitar?) in tracks like Dia Datang and Gocoh Bey, to a more doom-laden rock sound in Kool Aib that quickly modulates under the control of Imaniac’s lyrics, to the weird moo-ing sounds of varying pitches on Laksana Bulan and the loopy distortions on The Omega. All garnished with the ubiquitous sirens and gun cocks of American rap music.

The ethnically ambiguous influences also show up on the EP cover, which features the title in a stylised font that looks like Hebrew script crossed with the sharp curves on Minangkabau houses. The rap may still be clearly indebted to Western giants like Eminem (an inescapable influence on millennial rappers anywhere), but the production sounds like everything, and, at the same time, like nothing you’ve ever heard before. In the bigger picture, H-AM feels like the beginnings of an artistic synthesis with the potential to transcend the eternal question of Malaysian/Western influence that continues to divide cultural reception in Malaysia.

Half-A**ed Mixtape, a collaborative project by Rapkot and Imaniac, was released under the stage name “Half-A**ed Men” on Feb 7, 2021 at Rapkot’s Bandcamp page.


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Ellen Lee is a writer under the CENDANA-ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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