Scott Delta & Astral Trap - "Summer Of No Love" Review
Music Mondays broke down Scott Delta & Astral Trap's latest project "Summer Of No Love" and this is easily a timeless project you need to know about in the Summer of 2023.
Scott Delta is a 24-year old artist from St. Louis, MO. Delta is a member of the art collective ENYU and often collaborates with other members of the group, such as artists ZiDiiL and Illmana. Her talent and musical ability knows no bounds– you can often hear the multihyphenate artist effortlessly gliding between skillful R&B-esque singing and charismatic rapping within the same verse, usually over instrumentals that she produced. Astral Trap shares these qualities, having been extremely prolific in the underground scene throughout this decade and the last as a rapper, producer, singer, and visual artist. Although much of his music has yet to break through to the mainstream, he is already a fully developed artist in a caliber of his own; it would be quite difficult to find someone that has put in the work he has, especially with the wealth of talent he possesses.
The next track, ‘Ice Cream Cake’-- featuring vocals from both artists as well as fellow Enyu member Illmana– is a soulful, uptempo track that sees the trio at their peak. ‘Ice Cream Cake’ opens with a hypnotizing sample chopped into a danceable melody. As the song is about to drop, Illmana enters the stage with gusto, immediately bringing a level of energy to the track that had not yet been heard on the record thus far. Her first verse is short but sweet, filled to the brim with clever one-liners (“I was at the bottom, now I’m getting topped off”) that are amplified by the strength of her explosive delivery. Astral Trap is on hook duty for this one, delivering similarly witty bars (“I keep a joint in my hand ‘cause it’s handy”) with a charming and catchy cadence. Directly after the first iteration of the hook, Illmana comes through with another solid verse, voice filtered, ratcheting the energy of the track back up before Scott Delta slides into the track with vigor. For a bit over half of Delta’s verse, she belts out every single word in an inflected cadence, her infectious energy beyond measure before her delivery relaxes for the last few bars. An aside: the first time I heard ‘Ice Cream Cake’, I was so focused on Delta’s performance that it took me by surprise when I heard Astral jump in with “Stupid ass, Portland ass, hipster ass bitch!” As is the case with Illmana and Scott Delta on the song, Astral Trap’s verse is a grand display of clever lyricism delivered with mind-bending flows, switching comfortably between cadences while the verse remains cohesive. Following Astral’s incredible performance, Scott Delta makes another brief appearance on this song, her smooth voice contrasting tastefully with Astral’s rasp even if just for four more bars. Lastly, coming through with her longest verse yet, Illmana’s delivery on this is much more relaxed than her first two verses while retaining all of their lyrical strength, her flow never faltering from the first bar to the last. Illmana has one of the most standout performances throughout all of the project, dominating the intro, middle, and outro of ‘Ice Cream Cake’ with her infectious energy.
Following the magnificent ‘Ice Cream Cake’, we arrive at ‘Tryin to See You’-- a soft, downtempo R&B-esque cut with serene vocals, all from Delta. Filtered synth stabs and strings, a hypnotic bassline, and subdued drums accentuate the silk-smooth vocal delivery from Delta throughout the length of the track. Her repeated croon of “I don’t even know what you do when you do it!” never gets old despite that single line being the focus of the song, as it is supplemented by lush backing vocals and clever arrangement, chopping her vocals and providing enough variation to make ‘Tryin to See You’ a satisfying work of art.
The outro of ‘Tryin to See You’ transitions smoothly into the next song, ‘Ancient Love Tomb’, a grandiose and soulful number featuring vocals from both lead artists. The charming chopped sample floating in the instrumental decorates the soundscape perfectly, the lush strings and tape saturation evoking feelings of introspection and nostalgia, even before the artists come in to tie it all together. The first voice you hear on the track, Scott Delta channels themes of regret and reflection throughout her verse, singing in a subdued cadence that makes her performance feel a bit more raw and even personal, especially in contrast to some of her more extravagant work on this album (see: ‘Ice Cream Cake’).
Astral Trap takes the reins, pursuing a more melodic delivery on this track, complete with vocal harmonies and a series of captivating cadences. The artist recounts a budding romantic interest marred by feelings of uncertainty and unrequited interest, a topic that tugs at the heartstrings– we’ve all been there. Often hard to put into words, Astral manages to synthesize these feelings into a fantastic, heartfelt verse, putting his versatility on display as well as giving a more personal look at the goings-on of his life and love. Delta appears once more on ‘Ancient Love Tomb’, beginning her final verse in the aforementioned smooth delivery before breaking away to dive into the hearts of every listener, delivering a spectacular outro whose vocal melody sounds like a blend of ‘00s R&B and Blonde-era Frank Ocean. It feels like Delta is squeezing every last drop of emotion from her soul and funneling it all into her powerful presence and belted bars. The song ends with a graceful series of melodic phrases– which are catchy on their own, honestly– before it is capped with a radio DJ-esque transition followed by another appearance of the NOLV Radio tag. The radio/DJ motif throughout the album is interesting– it’s not the kind of project that I tend to hear these types of tags and transitions on, but they still fit well and never disrupt the flow of the project, enhancing the experience of the listening to the album as a whole.
Next in the queue during this NOLV Radio broadcast is a song titled ‘Identical Whores’, featuring Astral Trap and ZiDiiL. ZiDiiL, like Scott Delta and Illmana, is an artist and producer with the collective Enyu and the last founding member remaining in the group. Produced by Scott Delta, ‘Identical Whores’ steps away from the soulful R&B influence weaved throughout much of this project, trading the energy of ‘Ice Cream Cake’ and the harmonies of songs like ‘Tryin to See You’ for more traditional hip-hop stylings. It’s a relaxing cut from the album with stellar performances from both artists; I can imagine myself blunt-cruising down the highways of my home state, mind at rest with vibrato-tinged chords and catchy bars playing through the speakers. The drums are filled with rattling hi-hats, knocking kicks, and plasticky cowbells; there are crystal-clear trap elements, but between the drum samples chosen and the laid-back synth melody, ‘Identical Whores’ resembles an innovative take on Memphian proto-trap more than an exploration of modern trap. Some of ZiDiiL’s vocal mixing adds to that lo-fi aura, with some high-end scratchiness and a heavy coating of reverb present throughout their verse, although never at the cost of clarity. Whether or not intentional, it still creates an interesting listening experience and does not negatively affect the cohesion of the album despite the sonic differences. Both featured artists deliver amazing verses, and the song acts as a pleasant palate-cleanser before the genre-fluid experimentation of ‘Everything Is’.
The commanding voice behind NOLV Radio once again makes an appearance, introducing us to ‘Everything Is’, an ethereal ballad from Scott Delta. Ambient chords drenched in effects are the first elements to come into play, with an arrangement of swinging drums acting as the rhythmic base for Delta’s verse. Delta begins her verse rapping, making the most out of the room in the sparse drums with her acrobatic flow, jumping from pocket to pocket with each bar. After a brief but strong few bars, she transforms the last two words of her verse into a sort of bridge, chanting “Gettin’ stuck, gettin’ stuck, gettin’ stuck, gettin’” in a near-whisper. The briefest of pauses occurs before she reappears, voice soaked in reverb that’s almost louder than the dry vocals, as she begins to croon. Between the airy chords, the echoing drums, and her vocals, the latter half of this song makes me feel like I’m in a cathedral. It is an incredibly grand piece that finds strength in pure emotion, with each element of it entrancing in their own right. ‘Everything Is’ inspires awe in spite of its simplicity, benefitting from the minimalist arrangement as the echo of Delta’s vocals fill the stereo field, occasionally obscuring her words but never the feeling behind them.
Astral Trap makes his return alongside Scott Delta on the next track, the double-feature ‘Nah Baby, I’m Yours’. The piece opens with a murky, filtered lead melody– slightly reminiscent of ‘Self Care’ by the late Mac Miller– before dropping into the first hook of the track, a fierce quadruplet sung by Delta. Her tone sits between spiteful and rejoicing, her delivery emotive with an undercurrent of confidence. A rhythm of blistering hi-hat rolls and unique drum samples underscore the hook, rolls falling away as her verse begins. Delta’s verse on ‘Nah Baby’ is her most straightforward rap performance on the album, trading her signature genre-bending approach to her verses for a menacing, disaffected delivery. She raps quietly, her aura threatening as she delivers lines like “I crack skulls when I’m in a bind” in a flat, matter-of-fact tone. Delta’s voice gets pulled into a frenzy of digital noise as her verse concludes, reminiscent of a tape rewinding at high speed, before the song transitions to its second half.
A filtered section of horns and keys begins, followed shortly after by a small spoken excerpt of unknown origin making reference to astral projection. The instrumental evolves: the sample is chopped and made new as a female vocal enters the mix before Astral begins his performance. Sparse drums tap and thump under a constantly-shifting melodic sample, chopped and reversed and filtered beyond recognition once more into new art. Unlike the rest of his appearances on this album, he sings; while he’s not exactly belting his lyrics or hitting wide-range melodic runs like his counterpart, his raspy croon still works wonders with the warbling, minimalist instrumental. A brief refrain concludes Astral’s part on “Nah Baby, I’m Yours” before the instrumental once again warps, creating the foundation for Scott Delta’s breathtaking outro. The last appearance from Delta on the album, she makes the most of it; belting each lyric from the bottom of her heart and soul, she sings with power, channeling contagious emotion through her voice. Her lone presence progresses into ascendant harmonies, only growing in strength and heart before the song concludes with a proclamation from Delta: “Baby, I love you, like actually!”
The final song on Summer of No Love, ‘Ice Cream Shawty’, is a solo endeavor from Astral Trap. The track opens with synth pads filtered to the point of ambient texture, the droning sound almost suspenseful. When the drums hit, the unique sound selection and off-kilter rhythm are interesting enough to compensate for the lack of melodic variation. The unusual drum pattern, programmed with impressively clean live drum sounds, creates the perfect groove for Astral’s catchy hook. The song, particularly in his verse, is dense with wordplay and creative uses of free association; much of his work through the rest of the album had slicker flows and catchier cadences, but Astral tinkers more with his diction, intonation, and use of literary devices such as assonance on ‘Ice Cream Shawty’. It’s not a traditional flex of the ability to rap, such as rapping super fast or fitting as many rhymes into a verse as possible, but a song like this demonstrates his virtuosity with the pen while still crafting a good and quite catchy piece of music. At first, this song didn’t really hit me like the rest did, but after a few listens I really began to appreciate what Astral did in his performance. The production was also a grower, as the beauty is in the simplicity of it as well as the choices made before the beat was even made, such as sound design and selection– both of which are great on this track.
Scott Delta and Astral Trap are two extremely talented artists and producers, and ‘Summer of No Love’ is a testament to the power of shared creative energy and shared talent. Astral and Delta have been longtime experts in the fluidity of genre, both having proven their versatility and willingness to experiment a long time ago, and only keep mastering their craft as they continue to create. The artists traded roles producing, rapping, and singing throughout the record, and neither of them missed even once. When I reviewed the slate of Enyu projects that dropped earlier this year, I mentioned being excited for the future of these artists. I hadn’t reviewed an Astral Trap work yet, but he was another artist that I closely watched due to my admiration for his music. The attention that I paid paid off, as this project blew any and all expectations for these artists out of the water and set the bar higher than ever. I encourage anyone that reads this to listen to this album, and perhaps even more importantly, pay attention to these artists; they are going to continue to evolve, and you don’t want to miss it. The quality cannot be understated, and the music cannot be left unheard.
Stream Summer Of No Love: open.spotify.com/album/3VrVLFTSnGdsIzhE4mtwKD?si=IhSIzXgaTcmsP-mQ8iMSEw
Follow Scott Delta: twitter.com/scottdeltaenyu
Follow Astral Trap: linktr.ee/astraltrap
Written By xoarctic: twitter.com/xoxoarctic