Galician rapper Arufe opens his debut album, Isla, with a hip hop ballad called ‘DNA’ that sounds equal parts trap and dream pop. Its backdrop – which sounds like a contemplative version of Rihanna and Calvin Harris’ 2011 banger ‘We Found Love’– are courtesy of Judah and Mwëslee, a couple of names we’re used to see paired up with Arufe’s. Between the glittering synths and Arufe’s “Donde estabas tu?” refrain, it’s an effective way of letting us know this man is a romantic and proud of it.
Isla is Arufe’s escapist adventure from his cold and rainy natal Galicia and to an imaginary island. That’s probably why the overall feel of the album is so laid-back. (just listen to him drawl “traaaanqui” on ‘Polvo de Estrellas’ featuring Dotore, in which he talk-raps about drawing multi-colored clouds, getting stoned, and includes his now famous verse from BFlecha‘s ‘Mundo Bizarro’). Speaking of BFlecha, she contributes with vocals on ‘Copacabana,’ a breezy track that paints the duo’s personal vision of Carioca shores.
Arufe occasionally falls into some hip hop clichés, like his recurring rhymes about sex, drugs and rock and roll, and they find their peak on the N.E.R.D.-sampling ‘Rockstar,’ where his hardest delivery is oddly juxtaposed with a sax melody backing. But in general, his lyrics are smart and focused on romance: “Toda la noche entera / soñándote en la azotea” are the first few words he spits on “Nellcôte,” while Kongo Lacosta complements him with a sentimental rendition of the chorus.
Production is key on Isla. Judah and Mwëslee did their best in helping Arufe accomplish his island journey, while bringing something exciting to the table. On album closer ‘Ala Moana,’ he raps “mangos y guayabas / cocos y pirañas / un chico del barrio fresco dentro de tu cama,” summing up his concept: beach and romance. Arufe is the definition of fresh.
Isla goes on sale tomorrow.