Collaborative projects are an essential piece of hip hop history. If done right, they can evoke a sense of longitudinal harmony that will only be halted by unforeseen circumstances. At their worst, joint albums can come across as senseless cash grabs facilitated by label-driven capitalism. Some offer an engaging atmosphere, while others act as robust appetizers for each artist’s solo endeavors.
Songwriter/producer ALFii successfully captures a moment in time for Massachusetts’ burgeoning local scene on Avalanche, the new collaborative tape fully inspired by the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. The 7-track project flips the original samples from Nobuo Uetmatsu’s varied compositions for a whirlpool of trap bangers.
The tape features a myriad of different personalities, all of which include some of the state’s finest spitters. Connis, Donald Grunge, Luke Bar$, Lord Felix, Najee Janey, Michael Christmas, Stephon Joseph, Billy Dean Thomas, Brandie Blaze, Red Shaydez, Jiles, Saint Lyor, Latrell James, and Oompa all take a stab at these assorted configurations-most of which range from inherently cinematic (“Venmo”) to atmospherically whimsical (“Goodnight”).
Some tracks are just downright disgusting (in the best possible way), like the menacingly hypnotic “Barret” or the psychedelic joyride imbedded in “Wildin.” ALFii charismatically adopts to everyone’s strengths without sacrificing his conceptual vision; a difficult balance that only few producers can accomplish.
Full disclosure; I’ve never played the Final Fantasy games, nor do I know much about the acclaimed soundtrack. Even with this unknown information, ALFii still creates a landscape that can fit any video game score. “Rubberbandz” is an excellent introduction to Connis, Bar$ and Grunge’s nonchalant swagger; as arpeggiating keys bring listeners to the main menu. Blaze, Jiles, and Shaydez epitomize a final boss with their combustible sneers across menacing (borderline industrial) trap production on “Barret.” Lyor and Jiles bludgeon “Venmo” with vicious insults that cut through like a knife.
Christmas submits some of the catchiest moments on the record with “Ain’t Sweet” and “Who’s the Bitch Now,” while Oompa re-emerges as one of the more conscious rappers to come out of the state on the latter. “Goodnight” is the centerpiece of this experience, as Joseph and Thomas unify for a mystical journey. The song openly paints a vivid portrait of the game’s visionary setting, even for those who are unfamiliar with its idiosyncrasies. It’s the perfect transition into the urgent second half.
Everything is tied together elegantly by ALFii’s diverse set of instrumentals. Synths hopscotch off bouncing 808s, while keys flutter into the ether of virtual reality. He’s a master in producing his own score, much in the same way Kanye perfectly pieces together Gospel-tinged anthems. Avalanche is an appetizer and a full course meal, thanks to each rapper’s singular personalities and ALFii’s passionate, tightly-woven vision. Listen to Avalanche on all platforms, and get ready for an illustrious decade in Massachusetts.