Of the various trends and fads cropping up throughout hip-hop's four-decade history, hip-house is not one of its best regarded. Though one could argue that trap EDM and even the prevalence of electronic sounds in contemporary rap beats owes the subgenre some small debt, in retrospect the dated eighties and nineties blend of dance-floor and street styles contained far more misses than C+C Music Factory hits.
In recent years, however, hip-hop artists like Azealia Banks, Chance The Rapper, and Kanye West have flirted with old-school club sounds to great effect. Lil Yachty even teamed up with Carly Rae Jepsen for a wholesale reimagining of iconic hip-house single "It Takes Two," albeit for a Target promotion. If there were ever a time to mount a revival, now is as good as any.
Whether or not Raleigh rapper ZenSoFly overtly identifies with the bygone sound's whim, her upbeat Sunflowers EP bears many of its hallmarks. That's immediately clear from the nostalgic synth bass of "Life at the Funeral," morbidly cheeky dance-pop framed as petty faux-eulogy. "Waves Interlude" goes down a garage avenue, its minute-long diversion awash with snappy if aged kick snare presets.
Though the refined throwback approach runs the risk of novelty, Sunflowers benefits from ZenSoFly's microphone prowess, which at times recalls, though certainly doesn't mimic, the rapid-fire magnificence of Cakes Da Killa. On the technicolor single "Getting Started" or the more muted "Culprit," she batters the mic with aplomb.
That runs counter to ZenSoFly's nonchalant, unperturbed flow on "Civic," which befits the beat's semiaquatic vibe. Further to that, closer "Something Special" drops the tempo to glide into minimalist R&B mode after an unexpected guitar meander. These outliers from the nightclub set hint at her range and potential beyond the Technotronic-esque crowd pleasers, a telling sign that a broader breakout is within her grasp.