Soundcheck: Sun Deep — Will Rap for Change 

Acclaimed poets, rappers, and vocalists join the up-and-coming India-born, Oklahoma City-based producer for a thought-provoking charity record.

click to enlarge Album art for Sun Deep's Will Rap For Change

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Album art for Sun Deep's Will Rap For Change

Sun Deep has skyrocketed in Oklahoma City music over the past year and Will Rap for Change is the proof. Featuring some of the biggest spitters in the rap and spoken word scenes, his first proper producer album is 15 tracks built around a common theme of change, whatever that happens to mean for each featured artist. As epic as the concept sounds, the album is a smooth, streamlined listen that never overstays its welcome thanks to a light runtime and variety of sounds.

Opening track “Spare Change” is an immediate highlight. Sun Deep pulls from his experience in film scoring to build a soundtrack around spoken word artist MAC Woods’ powerful reflection on inequity. Woods’ ability to encapsulate big-topic ideology through just a few minutes of storytelling and wordplay is impeccable, and it sets the stage for the succinct statements to come.

With the exception of Original Flow’s beautiful mid-album acapella prelude to “Power Moves,” the tracklist brims with smooth, atmospheric beats. Sun Deep likes to pay credit to his samples, giving them a few seconds to breathe before recontextualizing them into his rhythms. From the harmonica in HusL’s “Slick EXchange” to the lounge jazz of Skai Hye’s “Seasons,” he manages to keep the character of the source material while both making the instrumental his own and allowing room for the featured performers to make it theirs, too.

While each rapper, poet, and singer works with the same writing prompt, the interpretations are vastly different. Sávion addresses the slippery slope of social drinking on “Demons.” PraVurb’s “Ode to the Government” tackles systematic oppression. There’s even room for Izzy da Father, the rap moniker of provocative comedian Jon McMillan, who goofs on being asked to rap about change during “Echo Chambers.”

No matter the take, each artist is part of a bigger goal by virtue of joining the project. All proceeds from Bandcamp sales of Will Rap for Change through the end of April will be matched and donated to Asha for Education, a nonprofit dedicated to providing educational opportunities to underprivileged children in India. Listeners familiar with Sun Deep’s side project Finite Galaxy, the hip-hop duo where he raps in Hindi, will know that his Indian roots play a big part in his creative work.

Will Rap for Change is another fine example of what happens when Oklahoma artists join forces for a common work of art. Dozens of prior Oklahoma City music collections like 2020’s indie rock compilation The Oklahoma Quarantine Demos, 2018’s Worm-produced To-Go Plate, and 2016’s folk-heavy Powerhouse Sessions Vol. 1 have kept the tradition going for years, so it may seem like Sun Deep’s contribution is not exactly new. That’s how it works, though. Change itself is a constant. It is perpetual. As Original Flow says on the album, “Change is all around you. You don’t get there. You’re already in it.”

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Evan Jarvicks

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