Bangalore-based music producer and multi-instrumentalist Clifr’s latest collaboration with the city’s rap genius Tintin on their album Meet Me Halfway, sets the example for an alternative hip-hop record by diverging away from cookie-cutter elements in the genre, while also retaining its mojo till the very end. At the same time, it falls behind in a lot of aspects, sometimes going overboard with its need to sound “different” which ultimately works against it. Regardless, with all its shortcomings and plus points, the record crafts a multi-chromatic hip-hop scape that leaves it up to you to decide whether it finds a place in your playlist or not.
Released on March 25, 2022, via Export Quality Records, the album features 9 tracks that experiment with a gamut of sonic elements ranging from piano and guitar to horns and Indian instruments. The pilot song “Guidance” has Tintin rapping over a pensive and fluttering piano melody, crooning about a rather vulnerable period in his life. He is sincere in his delivery and makes you empathize with him intimately.
“Jhamela” invokes a darker mood than the other numbers. Thriving in an overall chaotic soundscape, it features harsh background vocals in the intro which craftily paves the way for the rapper’s main vocals to kick in. The song weaves a net of manic insanity with its glitchy beats, idiosyncratic vocal effects and Tintin’s uninhibited exhibit of his pride and contempt.
Songs like “Hot Summer”, “MOVE” and “Leg Day” are unabashedly edgy in their lyricism, lacking in anything other than vapid superficiality. Featuring catchy hooks, buoyant beats, snazzy verses and all that drip, they make for great dance numbers but that’s all there is to them. The horn and trumpet-oriented melody lines in “Hot Summer” and “Leg Day” slightly lift them out of their banality, also making up for the lack of any noticeable display of musicality.
The record loses major brownie points with its song “ok!”. Screaming nothing but brazen pretentiousness in its narrative, the track fails to stand for anything other than an animated trap number for a night of frenzied partying.
The album quickly comes out of its rut with “rockpaperscissors”. Kicking off with a melody played on an Indian instrument that I cannot exactly pinpoint (I’m guessing a sarangi), it adds a layer of crispness to the overall sound of the record. It ends with a guitar solo, which is quite unexpected in a predominantly hip-hop/trap sonic palette. Needless to say, the song cleanses it of its monotony, bringing back the initial charisma that the record started with.
“Restless” featuring Bangalore-based R&B singer BeBhumika continues with the resplendence established by “rockpaperscissors”. It builds up a lovely pop scape put together by bubbly beats and post-production embellishments from Clifr, and well-contrasting vocals from Tintin and BeBhumika. Reminiscent of Post Malone-ish soundscapes, the song is perfect for a long drive on a sunny day.
The record comes to an end with “Comfy” which is a drunken dance number that combines a flurry of melodic ornamentations and the rapper’s languorous vocals. He sings about a long-lost subject of his affections, sulking about his loss against the backdrop of spacey, dream-like atmospherics.
Meet Me Halfway is an unabashed display of sentimentality, angst, glee, and mindless self-indulgence. Ameliorating its narrative with the help of the few redeeming qualities that it possesses, the album tries its best to stand up for itself and all that it believes in without an ounce of self-doubt or timidness. Herein lies its appeal – that it is shamelessly flawed yet strikingly charming.