Elijah Kessler was just a teenager when the first sessions for what would eventually turn into LIGHTSPEED took place. In some ways, he had begun developing his distinct style of melodic rap from the time he was a kid. But it wasn’t until he began working with Instupendo during his high school years that he began releasing music publicly. At the time, that meant uploading songs to Soundcloud from his boarding school dorm room. The first real turning point in Elijah’s career happened when one of these songs caught the ear of Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi, and the two struck up a correspondence. A trip to California and a feature on Toro y Moi’s Soul Trash mixtape quickly followed, and the collaboration was up and running.
With the idea of an album planted in his head, Elijah set up a new makeshift studio in his basement. He got into a rhythm of quickly recording demos and sending them off to Bear, who would refine and transform them through his own filter until they became something entirely new. The two collaborators found themselves propelled forward by their own excitement, as the whole proved to be greater than the sum of its parts. A distinct sound was emerging, that blended Elijah’s immediacy and knack for melody with Bear’s sonic palette. Over the next several years, the project continued to grow as notable producers Nosaj Thing and Instupendo became involved in the project. In person sessions between Miami, New York, and San Francisco followed, and the album began to take shape.
One of Elijah’s important early influences was the online community of relatively obscure and lo-fi “Soundcloud Rap”. But he notably cites movie soundtracks as an equally important influence. As he says, “What I like about soundtracks is the worldbuilding element. Even though what I do is completely different, in a way that inspired me to reach for my own aspirations.”
After moving to Miami and settling into life as a college student, Elijah found that his life was providing him with plenty of opportunities to say what he was feeling. As someone who had been writing rhymes about his own life since the age of ten, the everyday struggles of these years were particularly inspiring. During this time, amidst the backdrop of an isolating pandemic, Elijah could only watch as laughter and emotion amongst his cohort were replaced by a pharmaceutically driven monotone. His reflection on this shift in his world, “BENZO”, hides its dark subject matter in a super upbeat and catchy melody. On “SINGING AND DRINKING”, Kessler confronts his own complicated feelings of guilt surrounding alcohol abuse. Throughout all of this work, we hear a voice oscillating between supreme confidence and humbling insecurity, a theme that’s made explicit on the tracks “LIGHTSPEED” and “ZEISS (ft. Toro y Moi)”.
Having been started as flashes of inspiration captured on sock mics in a basement, and subsequently refined by several notable producers, LIGHTSPEED is at once both raw and refined; both immediate and considered. The resulting sonic complexities are the perfect reflection of the content contained therein–the tumultuous process of a young man coming into his own, and an artist finding his voice.