The casual internet dweller has probably heard of Prince Harvey as “that guy who recorded an entire album in an Apple store“—a truly impressive origin story but also one that draws the kind of hype that can drown out the actual album. Now that PHATASS is finally out, it’s time to let the album speak for itself.
PHATASS, an acronym for an acronym for “Prince Harvey At The Apple Store: SoHo,” could have been a bedroom album but after a series of computer thefts was indeed recorded on the low at the SoHo Apple Store over the course of four months, thanks to a rigorous daily recording schedule, cloud storage and thumb drives, the good graces of two Apple employees, and resourcefulness for days. But beyond being a deft appropriation of the corporate commons, it’s also a solid album.
It’s not immediately obvious but PHATASS is all acapella, all the beats masterfully arranged from vocal samples that were bent, looped, and warped in GarageBand to act as drums and drum machines. As Moses Sumney has shown, voice alone is more than enough to create something with depth and texture.
True to its tenacious origins, PHATASS is full of struggle and survival verses, speaking on resilience, self-reliance, and being proud of making it on your own. The single “Sometimes” is tough luck reassurance rap, “City So Nice” is a classic New-York-as-school-of-hard-knocks track, and “Flowers”, a standout collaboration with New York based singer/producer Xhosa, sings empowerment in light of the refrain “sometimes it gets so cold / our minds feel like they won’t grow / to be completely free.”
Although Harvey has spoken in interviews about the kinds of systematic inequalities that make it necessary to hustle in the first place, that element is largely played down on the album, which is generally positive, save for a downturn on “Strange Rap” that cuts with “I don’t mean to sound like a villain / but I’ve got way too many scars and no sign of healing” and the ending, a winking yet somber rendition of Gwendolyn Brooks’ legendary “We Real Cool”. From the buzzworthy recording process to the closing track, PHATASS is a series of smart choices that show that a catchy origin story is a good way to get off the ground, but it’s also just the beginning.