Charmaine Shows Who's in Charge on 'HOOD AVANT-GARDE' EP

Charmaine Shows Who's in Charge on 'HOOD AVANT-GARDE' EP
Last fall, Toronto-based rapper Charmaine showed us how "BOLD" she could be with the release of her debut single, and she lives up to and even raises that high bar she set for herself with the follow-up EP, HOOD AVANT-GARDE.

At 5 tracks and only 12 minutes, HOOD AVANT-GARDE is practically bursting at the seams with personality and beats as bombastic as Charmaine's attitude. Singles "BOLD" and "WOO!" serve as a centrepiece for the project, surrounded by three new songs that go just as hard as the tracks we've already heard. That attitude is put front and centre on the opener "I DON'T CARE": with a bouncing baseline and smacking vocal delivery, the track starts at 10 and cranks it up from there when the beat hits.

Those beats are nothing to sniff at either. HOOD AVANT-GARDE goes beyond the formula of just slapping 808s and rapid-fire hi-hats: the instrumentals are meticulously crafted, gathering sounds from trap and drill as easily as house and African drum rhythms. The whole project is incredibly rhythmic, running the gamut of percussion and pushing the music forward.

The track "DOUBLE DUTCH" is a standout both in instrumental and in bars, with an irresistible two-note horn melody and drums bashing beneath some of the tightest flows and best lyrics Charmaine brings on the EP. "If you want beef they gon' serve you a plate / Girl what? Man you know you plant-based," she raps — just one example of Charmaine putting listeners in their place.

The lyricism isn't always that memorable, though, and Charmaine's flows aren't exactly something we haven't heard before. But she isn't trying to flaunt her technique, and the verses are never found wanting. Charmaine holds her own and carries the EP through her audacious performances and high-energy delivery. A debut project with songs that can go toe-to-toe with contemporaries like City Girls and Megan Thee Stallion is something to be proud of.

The terms 'punchy' and 'in-your-face' are clichés, but for good reason: they describe what's so infectious about music like HOOD AVANT-GARDE. Charmaine takes up the space she wants on each of these tracks and makes sure you know who's in charge — all while making you want to dance, too. Charmaine's HOOD AVANT-GARDE is a must-listen for fans of Toronto hip-hop. (Warner)