Since its creation in 2015, the Ruby Yacht Makers Guild has been steadily growing in size and developing stylistically. Founded by rapper and producer Rory Ferreira (formerly known as Milo), Ruby Yacht has become an exciting beacon in the American alternative hip-hop scene, displaying diversity of genre and an uncompromising DIY ethos. 37 GEMS is their first full project together.
Where the group tapes of many other rap collectives have been a mediocre clash of incompatible sounds, Ruby Yacht slides between a wealth of different styles and ideas, each giving each other enough space to breathe without making the project feel too disjointed. This diversity likely comes in part from the fact that most of the members, despite being predominantly vocalists, are also experienced producers. The production on the whole project really shines and is a welcome treat. The tracks shift seamlessly between Pink Navel’s piercing synths, Ferreira’s stuttering jazz samples, and Kenny Segal’s polished bass lines.
This diversity is a notable benefit on the album’s only single, ‘Bulging Envelope’, one of the project’s lighter moments. The hiccupping beat and wry performances led by Ferreira heavily evoke the group’s influences, such as MF Doom and A Tribe Called Quest. Despite this, each member’s performance brings enough individuality to avoid the song feeling like a pastiche of its forebearers.
It was a welcome surprise to see better known members like Ferreira, who features prominently on many tracks, often step aside and let the collective’s more obscure artists show off their abilities. Pink Navel’s solo track ‘Stenographer Club’, for example, feels like something a rapper like Hobo Johnson should be doing but isn’t. It manages to balance a bright and energetic vocal performance while retaining its emotional and self-deprecating mood.
Additionally, the project introduces the collective’s most recent addition, UK rapper Eldon Somers. Somers’s moody and cynical tone provides a compelling contrast to some of the more earnest and enthusiastic performances from Safari Al and Pink Navel.
37 GEMS is a bold, experimental, and jarring album. It is the culmination of the intertwined growth of several artists whose disparate styles complement and reinforce each other. Hopefully, they will keep making music together in the years to come, but this is certainly a strong start.
Image: Spencer Wells