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Arguably the youngest OG in Chicago hip-hop, at just 21 years old, Qari has kept fans on their toes for over half a decade with self-possessed bars and a signature shape-shifting style of rapping.

Keenly aware of his stamp on the local scene, “Since I Was 17” boasts Qari’s unreplicable demeanor and lifestyle in ways only he can, finding himself in a comfortable pocket inside Cangelosiii’s icey instrumental as he flows with precision about money-induced hangovers and shoes imported from Italy.

“Since I Was 17” is a flex and also expected to land on Qari’s forthcoming project No Time To Explain, which he’s been working on for the past few months. Nonetheless, the artist formerly known as Carl has been able to show out on guest appearances as well — most recently in Monster Mike’s “.zip.”

The two Chicago emcees are long-time favorites of mine and yet the track’s cohesiveness and quality still managed to exceed whatever expectation I had prior to hitting play. Brought together by their smoking habits, these two already have a knack for delivering lines that will get glued to your head and the woozy backdrop, produced once again by Cangelosiii, makes sure they stick even if you’re actively trying to smoke a zip a day.

Qari excels in giving his rhymes the freedom to take unexpected turns. Creating magical moments when he spits lines such as “grandma says I’m gifted like a Christmas tree on Christmas eve / I’m the only one that be uplifting me, my spirit’s free,” it’s easy to hear Qari free-forming raps and think that his talent is merely intuitive, but a closer listen reveals a much more complex and disciplined practice.

With “Just A Loop,” another single off No Time To Explain, Qari offers a quick yet astute rebuttal to the aforementioned notion with “n***** be thinking I’m Socrates, shit ain’t just fall from the sky for me.” He’s always held a natural aptitude for rapping and making it seem effortless, but his current stride of hits —dating back to 2017’s Space Jam EP— can mostly be attributed to his flair for continuously developing his work outside the lines of his contemporaries.

As we closely approach No Time To Explain’s release date, it is fascinating to consider that he’s not only found a way to keep his fan base intrigued and expanding through various group and solo efforts but also that this is barely the beginning.

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