24. Boxcar Sessions, Saafir
Oakland rapper Saafir bounces off the walls. If Q-Tip is the Abstract Poet, Saafir is the Obtuse one, shifting shapes and eluding your grasp like a ball of putty. He’s known for stealing the spotlight on Casual’s Fear Itself, but when Saafir asked him to return the favor on his own album, the Hiero rapper balked. That led to the legendary battle between Saafir, Casual and Tajai on Sway and Tech’s Wake Up Show in ’94, where, by most accounts, Saafir ripped the Hiero kids with what were rumored to be written rhymes.
Boxcar Sessions isn’t for everybody. It’s an exhausting listen at times; you have to hold on to Saafir’s arrhythmic flows through 19 songs. He attacks the beat sideways and would come to influence other nerdy rappers like Aesop Rock, but no one mastered the technique like Saafir because, as Noz noted, the baritone of his voice is deeper than the nasally inflection that later word jumblers would use. Boxcar Sessions is a poetic exercise for the ears, but you’ll be better equipped for it after multiple reps.