A lot of curious indie projects have landed across my desk this year, but this week one of most unique made its way to my AirPods. 27-year-old RetroPOP passed me his latest effort, RetroPOP Vol 1 This For Amir — a 19-song serving of nostalgic Hip Hop vibes, wrapped in an endearing subplot of family history.
Curated to sound like it’s either a vintage TV flipping through decades of history or stops for some sort of funky time machine, Retro rips through tons of classic samples. The album intro for example — “Burnell’s Intro ‘92” — which has the baseline of Jade’s “Don’t Walk Away” blended in “T.R.O.Y.” His wordplay too is phenomenally engaging. He sounds like a student of the game, with a flow that doesn’t sound forced to nest itself seamlessly into the vintage vibes.
As an older head, there were some pleasant surprises on the project, such as “NY Undercover ‘94,” a short and sweet story told from the perspective of New York police Detectives J.C. Williams and Eddie Torres — the protagonists of the show New York Undercover — set to the show’s iconic theme song. Then there’s “the story of the prince ‘90,” which sees Retro ripping through the theme song of seminal sitcom Fresh Prince Of Belair to tell the real story of the show that changed Will Smith’s life. He even added a clip from an episode I still can’t watch without crying a little [see below.]
Another cool track was “House Party 90,” which has a New Jack Swing sound as he rips from Kid’s perspective — from the cult-classic film “House Party” — sneaking out of his home to attend Play’s epic party.
Then there are these deeply personal tracks such as the Charles Allen Freestyle ‘60, a song for his “Paw Paw.” During the final checkpoint, in case the listener hadn’t quite caught it yet, we discover that Amir is his nephew. Which makes the chronicling of his family’s story alongside all these walks down the pop-culture that helped shape him, that much more meaningful. Entenched with themes of cultural identity, flanked with check in points — and even including a heartfelt poem — it’s journey that leaves you relishing for an era that’s long gone. Yet you walk away oddly optimistic for the culture going forward based on the creativity of the trip.
Overall, it’s a recommended slice of Hip Hop worth giving your time to, especially if you grew up in the 90s and hold a soft spot for some of the era’s defining moments.