As part of his series that coincides with the seasons, Chicago emcee Qwel is parceling out the beatsmith duties by rotating out Maker for Meaty Ogre on his second installment, the deeply shaded Freezerburner. This album, which essentially seeks to capture the isolation and introspective nature that winter inspires, succeeds in doing just that, with Qwel’s syllable-pairing hunger and Ogre’s knack for thick and cloudy backdrops. Qwel raps with an intense fervor whose space-less flow dizzies the listener, like on the breathless “High Tithe” and tart “The Cyclops”.
On a standout, “Saved”, Qwel is at his best over a desperado fuzz guitar twisted with a harmonica line, exercising his talented by juxtaposing classic album titles with an emotive retrospective of how hip-hop was his guiding savior during difficult patches. In comparison to the menacing lyrical surgery of Qwel, Meaty Ogre creates a crackling and consistent collection of beats, drawing from Western crates and records whose pops and clicks overshadow the sample itself. On “Winterlude”, Ogre chases a thin whistle with a wall of incomprehensible vocal babble, channeling the eerily quiet candescence of a snowstorm. So with the pessimistic chemistry of the two in place, Freezerburner is the well-executed hip-hop complement to the season at hand: dense and bitter, yet infective with its solitude-inspiring bareness.