It’s a decent shorthand to describe the young rapper’s affinity for wordplay, his open-book self-consciousness, and his primary influences. (He cites Slug and MF Doom specifically, and you can hear hints of Childish Gambino and Chance the Rapper as well.)
But “backpack rap” hardly begins to capture Student1’s open-ended grasp of modern hip-hop. “I want to push limits,” he says, waiting in the greenroom of the Whole Music Club just before showtime. “I also want to see how strong words and ideas really are.”
The students at the Whole seem visibly unsure of what to expect from the rapper, whose slightly awkward stage presence belies his impressively captivating set. With a soft-spoken swagger, a wry cleverness slyly cloaked beneath a laissez faire demeanor, Student 1 finds a joyous middle ground between honest lyricism and exuberance.
“I don’t really have a pattern in my process,” he says. “It’s usually just me going with my gut feeling. That approach doesn’t really give you a consistent result every time. I do sometimes really have no direction when it comes to writing.”
He’s just as spontaneous about releasing music. His songs appear online out of nowhere, each with drastically different beats, cadence, and subject matter. “I love dropping just random songs,” he says. “That shit’s so fun. I can drop a single and listen to how it sounds, and immediately just be like, how do I jump out of this box?”
On Student 1’s latest full project, Dichotomy, he shares each track with another like-minded MC (including Drelli, Nazeem, and CrashPrez), their styles meeting and bouncing off each other as he raps about everything from weed to helping your mom get to the bus stop.
With every song, Student 1 hopes to move his craft forward—his name reflects his philosophy of continual growth. He says he wants to eventually feel as comfortable performing folk or bluegrass as he does hip-hop, and that open-mindedness is already reflected in his versatile beat selection and fluctuating flow. “If I can hear a distinct difference between what I drop recently and what I drop after that, I’m satisfied,” he says.