There’s no relationship quite like the one that a musician and his music share, and Slick Naim does his best to interpret and translate this very relationship into a vivid rap ballad in “In the Vault.” “In the Vault” is a powerful, passionate, and boldly produced song that delves into a groove rarely played out in such a manner in contemporary hip-hop, and while its narrative is personal, it isn’t self-righteous in the least. There’s no place for the predictable in Slick Naim’s latest release, which is one that I would rank as one of the better to be cut in his scene in the last six months.
The vocals are firm throughout the song, but they’re not rooted in the sort of bubblegum pandering that has become commonplace within the annals of the east coast underground lately. Naim doesn’t act like he’s putting up a front here, both in what he says and how he says it; he’s genuinely feeling something when he’s rapping, and it is only through his moxie that we’re able to appreciate the full scope of the melody at hand. Every listening session with “In the Vault” unveils a different layer of its composer’s personality, and I can’t remember the last time that I said that about a studio cut in hip-hop or any other genre.
One thing that I might have done a little differently would have been to adjust the bass tones to be just a bit more forceful in the chorus than they currently are. Naim is bringing a ton of energy to this juncture of the track, and had he been backed with a little more of a push in the bassline, I think that his virtuosic vocal would have been even more stunning than it already is. It’s an excusable flaw, and it doesn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the song as a whole.
Everything about the conceptual framework of “In the Vault” tells me that it was made to be played live, before the spotlight and a roaring crowd. The setting would provide Slick Naim with all the space he needs to feed off of the audience’s energy and enhance the natural presence of the verses, which is already what makes this single such a fetching listen time and time again. He’s a fine lyricist with a knack for getting deep and making us feel everything transpiring in his heart, and that’s something that I don’t find a lot of in pop music anymore.
I’d never heard of Slick Naim until just recently, but he’s certainly got my attention with “In the Vault.” There’s no hesitation here, no reticence that is found in almost every young recording artist – there’s just a man with a melody and a mission, and inside under three minutes of sonic swagger, he finds a means of using both to provoke memories and ideas that most of us hold quite dear. I’m dying to hear more before the summer is over, but even if we have to wait until 2024, I won’t be the only critic keeping tabs on Slick Naim’s output from here on out.