“Narf resembles a witch in the hypnotism of her voice”
Feminist author Andrea Dworkin argued in her seminal book Woman Hating that witchcraft prosecutions in early modern Europe were an attack on women which amounted to “gynocide”. She also suggests witches were in fact real women who practised alternative medicines and- as a bigger threat to the social order- embraced fully their sexual appetites together and with equally ‘debased’ men. This might appear a tenuous link to an Atlanta Rap artist in 2016, but Lord Narf’s choice to identify with a witch is part of this intriguing history. The cover art alone seems to use an aesthetic evocative of these exact ideas about womanhood.
That said, she only really resembles a witch in the hypnotism of her voice. Almost every hook and bridge is infectious and ethereal, and Narf’s flow is more accomplished and confident than her previous work. She’s devastating and cold on ‘Free My Jack’ and ‘Leave Yo Azz Alone’, vulnerable on ‘Ex’ but reaches her peak on ‘Quit it’ – “we do not care what you wearing we still looking better than you” and “Oprah is my neighbour” being stand out lines of bravado and agency. The common themes throughout are power, money and sex- conventional Rap themes delivered in a refreshing way- Narf follows the long, and oft-ignored, tradition of empowered women in Rap while keeping an authentic voice.
When Lord Narf says “my love is like the air/ it’s everywhere, but not for everyone” it can be seen both as the playfully mystical confession of a self-professed witch flirting with ideas of the occult, but also a very realistic and vulnerable statement warning people not to mess with her orbit and energy. The best rappers whether male or female are defined by their ability to tread the line between vulnerability and bravado, and Narf pulls this off in the next line: “wasn’t placed here, I’m above you, lord God I’m above you”.
“There still remains a niche to be carved out by female MCs – their voices have been present but often silenced throughout Hip-hop history”
Ultimately this is a work that fits very neatly into the Awful Records story: Atlanta Rap, with a bizarre, abstract and psychedelic edge. My only criticism is that the whole project is so littered with guest features from Narf’s less talented co-signs that we don’t get to hear that many bars from Lord Narf herself – but in fairness this is a mixtape rather than a debut LP. At 28 minutes its shortness is actually pleasing, in a similar way to Earl Sweatshirt’s most recent album – a common mistake often made by artists is releasing 70-minute projects which are good but lack cohesion.
The strength of Lord Narf on this mixtape is that she creates her own unique aesthetic, personality and sonic fingerprint, while still staying true to a recognisable Rap essence. It is often said that Rap shouldn’t be about money and power and sex, but this is a flawed argument considering how fundamental each of these are to contemporary society. There still remains a niche to be carved out by female MCs – their voices have been present but often silenced throughout Hip-hop history, but releases like this will make people start paying them more attention.