Feenom Circle 

Souled Separately

It makes sense that Feenom Circle is from the Bay Area, which has been a breeding ground par excellence for indie hip-hop over the years. It's a little surprising, however, to find out that the group hails from San Francisco, whose rap scene has (with few exceptions) been super-underground, super-thugged-out, and super-easy to overlook. While Oakland has produced microphone controllers by the pound, Frisco has primarily been known for its DJs, until now.

Urban without being overtly ghetto, lyrical without being nerdy, Feenom Circle's manic energy and sheer creativity might remind listeners of early Hieroglyphics or the Pharcyde. The Feenoms also possess a nice sense of phrasing -- it's not just what they say, but the way the words fall in sequence that gets you open. On "Nothing Yet," the Feenoms show that their skills at signifying are not to be scoffed at: "I'm from that crew you never heard/that cat they called absurd/looks, glances, whole perspective is truly unconcerned/with shit that don't concern me/knowing things is topsy-turvy."

The group's slightly delayed rhyming cadences go well with the minimalist musical backgrounds found on Souled Separately, its debut. User-friendly beats, laced with 808 booms, jazzy guitar runs, and wicky-wick scratches, make head-noddin' easy. To its credit, the nine-song EP isn't cluttered with throwaways. Only one song (the plodding "Days Go By") sounds subpar, especially compared to knockin' tracks such as "Circulation" and "Tunnel Vision." Souled Separately's most realized moment, however, may be "I Ain't Askin'," a fresh little ditty about getting your mack on without coming off fake, which hints at the group's potential.

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