Local rap scene stalwarts Adam Bomb, Rich Kidd, and Tona team up and get dark on their new mixtape.
Streetwear and hip-hop have a pretty long history together. Rappers were among the first to embrace early streetwear labels like Supreme and Stussy, and streetwear companies like Mishka have been sponsoring mixtapes for years now. Now, Toronto has a streetwear/hip-hop collaboration to call its own.
NBS is a local rap supergroup made up of Rich Kidd, Tona, and Adam Bomb. Its first mixtape, TheLegendsLeague Presents: Naturally Born Strangers, is being put out in conjunction with streetwear label TheLegendsLeague, whose limited-edition ballcaps and crewnecks have been a staple of local hip-hop shows for years.
Naturally Born Strangers is a release marked by a sort of paranoid darkness that can’t help but make the listener uneasy. It’s not that the mixtape is heavy-duty gangster shit or schlocky horror rap—it’s just infused with a sort of ominous pressure. It’s the sound of dark alleyways and late-night walks taken alone, while desperately trying to sort your head out. It’s the feeling of wanting to “make it,” whatever that means, undercut by the creeping sensation that you never will.
This sonic environment is due in no small part to the production of Rich Kidd. Kidd may not be Toronto’s most commercially successful beatmaker—although he’s getting there—but he is one of the city’s most respected. On Naturally Born Strangers, he goes above and beyond: the slightly distorted drum track on “Strangerhood” leaves the listener slightly discombobulated, and his brilliant use of a sample from Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host” on “A Gun & a Pack of Sandwiches” creates a feeling of impending doom.
Lyrically, all three of these MCs are heavy hitters. Bomb lives up to his moniker and delivers every line with astounding force. His gravelly baritone is immediately intimidating, and the fact that he spits out words like he’s angry at them makes the onslaught even more overwhelming. That’s not to say he’s all bombast, though. He also puts a lot of emotion into his delivery, most notably on “Butter Chicken,” where he treads a line between desperation and rage. Tona is probably the most technically skilled of the three. He has a liquid flow that can move effortlessly from too-many-words in a verse to open and spacious, something that shines on “This Sight Belongs to You.” Rich Kidd, on the other hand, comes across like a pure battle rapper. He tosses off punchline after punchline, one-liner after one-liner, taking shots at enemies both named and unnamed—even making fun of himself on “Jameson Ave.” (“Jameson Ave.” is the closest these guys come to making a party track, and even it is pretty bleak. You can listen to it by clicking on the sample above.)
Bomb, Tona, and Kidd are three of Toronto’s favourite rappers. They’re the people’s champs, who get love and respect at every hip-hop event they attend. But with the exception of Kidd—who’s still better known as a producer, rather than an MC—they don’t get a lot of recognition outside the GTA. Hopefully, the strength of this collaborative effort will be enough to change that.