In the world of rap, AJ Suede and Televangel have come to define the current state of hustle and innovation. A multifaceted rapper and producer known for his expansive soundscapes, lyrical substance and prolific output, Suede has been at the forefront of a specific type of abstract sound that’s permeating the underground these days. Equally prodigious, Televangel (formerly of Blue Sky Black Death) is one of the best producers around, a master of vivid beats who’s been on a roll as of late—releasing a slew of exceptional solo projects alongside collaborative albums with dream pop acts like Child Actor and underrated rappers like Milc.
Together, Televangel and A.J. Suede form one of the most interesting collabs in modern rap. You might recall that the first time these two linked up—on the 2022 album Metatron’s Cube—they created a masterpiece of abstract hip-hop. Parthian Shots is a follow up which fits right in with what they did last time, a rigorous project that demands careful attention to lyrics as well as beats.
Throughout the album’s 16 tracks, Televangel gives us a new selection of celestial sounds with hints of surrealism. The beats hit hard but are also often quite minimal, so you can hear every word of every verse. As usual, AJ Suede comes hard with unrelenting rhymes, seamlessly fusing abstract concepts with social commentary and rewind-worthy double entendres. He’s a rapper who’s equally adept at conjuring images in your mind as he is at telling you what’s on his mind.
The album’s title is named after the warfare tactics of the Parthians (an ancient Iranian people) and it feels much like a battle of words between Suede and the other underground rap legends featured on the project—including Old Grape God (“Quit Right”), Rich Jones (“Goodbye”), Bruiser Wolf (“Holy Moly”), Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire (“PBS Kids”), and Milc and Nacho Picasso (“Terrible”). Everyone brings their A-game, verbally sparring to give this project plenty of depth and replay value.
In the end, Parthian Shots is a must listen for fans of abstract hip-hop and lyricism done properly by artists who aren’t afraid to experiment with their sound.