Mother Nature, “SZNZ”
On “Handzoff,” several songs into the new mixtape SZNZ from Chicago rap twosome Mother Nature, Tierney Reed (a.k.a. T.R.U.T.H.) introduces the pair as the most dynamic hip-hop duo of all time. Playfully, Klevah Knox (the rap alias of Shasta Matthews) gasps at the grandiose statement, and Reed reassures, “Not to shit on anybody, but we just got to give to you how it is.” It’s a subtle but poignant moment—one, because it comes so late in the project’s selection of 15 tracks, but also since it captures the groups’ Midwestern bravado; Mother Nature are confident, but not arrogant.
SZNZ is a follow-up to their 2020 debut EP Portalz, which was a 21-minute, third-eye-opening introduction to the duo. Setting the releases side by side, they illustrate Mother Nature’s dynamism, lyrical wit, and skillful pivots from laidback flexes to exercises in working out fear-based energies. Their flows are tactile, and their mission is clear: “We seek to awaken our communities to acknowledge and replace the consumption of death and low vibr8tional frequencies that cause ills and confusion, particularly within our youth,” they’ve said of SZNZ. But that isn’t empty hippy-dippy artist speak. Both Reed and Matthews practice what they rap, establishing the program the Miseducation of HipHop, where kids can use the power of hip-hop to learn, articulate, heal, and grow.
“Divine focus, path chosen,” T.R.U.T.H. raps on “Cloudz.” “Built from the ground / It’s more than just music to increase the intellect,” she continues, weaving in a nod to their organization. SZNZ takes us through the brittle but introspective Chicago winter of 2020, one that was even more isolating as a result of pandemic life—it’s no coincidence the opening track is dubbed “Antisocial.” Sometimes the tonal shifts on SZNZ seem as unpredictable as Chi-Town’s climate, but it inevitably works to their advantage, showcasing a wide variety of boom-bap boasts and playful reflections, while hosting other Chicago family including Cool Kids’ Sir Michael Rocks, Valee, Gr8sky, Brittney Carter, Freddie Old Soul, Jeff K%NS, and Murph Watkins.
Mother Nature’s atmospheric charge only becomes stronger as the mixtape goes on. Highlight “Gemz,” where crystals are mind-opening gateways rather than body adornments, is cushioned between the intimate “Source Code” and their hardest, punkest track “Static Mode.” Knox raps on the former, “HML for da source, but force it / Only endorse endorphins and open doors to more ends, beginnings.” They live in the natural world, only to elevate themselves to a higher understanding. The chorus on “Handzoff” captures their omnipresent auras: “We ain’t got no limits to this vision / We evolving.” Across SZNZ, Mother Nature hold close the mantra that their impact, personal growth, and mastery of their craft is timeless.