Different Type Time

Somewhere in Brooklyn, New Orleans, or Oakland, there’s a corner apartment with a window propped open. A slight breeze gently pushes the curtains aside to let the sunshine in, noises from the street below sneaking behind it. Thin ribbons of smoke from a smoldering cone, either weed or incense (but probably both), perfume the room while a gust of wind flutters notebook pages full of long-forgotten observations. There’s an undeniable wisdom that lives in moments like these, cultivated through the simplicity of attuning to the sights, smells, and space around you. If you tap into that energy, you might even bridge the past and present, connecting with something larger than yourself.

That sense of spirituality permeates Different Type Time, Cavalier’s sumptuous and sublime new album. It’s in the record’s hushed mysticism: Characters perform honey jar spells or clutch copies of the Circle 7 Koran to their chest; some form of God is always present in the margins of songs, appearing as a Black woman, a mother, or the buds of a cannabis plant. It’s in the warm, beatific production Cavalier chooses, every gossamer string, lilting guitar, or sparkling piano loosely orbiting around crisp, unobtrusive drums. On “Pears,” he raps, “It’s vibrational, ain’t it” four times, using repetition to tune in to higher frequencies. Throughout the album, Cavalier constantly harmonizes with the cosmos to ground himself within the chaos.

Cav is originally from Brooklyn, but landed in New Orleans about a decade ago. He and his frequent collaborators Quelle Chris and Iman Omari were previously bicoastal, convening to work on music in New York, Omari’s hometown of Los Angeles, or whatever West Coast enclave Quelle was living in at the moment. Cav and Omari eventually settled in NOLA, where the pair made 2015’s LemOnade EP and 2018’s Private Stock, the latter of which has become something of a minor cult classic among contemplative underground rap fans. Those records reflected the pair’s new Southern home, including Omari’s take on warm jazz and Cav’s ruminations on NOLA’s struggles with gentrification and police brutality. For Different Type Time, Cav recruits a new slate of producers, expanding his palette but retaining his previous works’ humid thrum. He’s still concerned with his surroundings but turns further inward, the record playing like conversations between different eras of himself.

It’s hard to catch the depth of Cav’s writing upon first listen, as he frequently employs double entendres and clever innuendos, burying them in thickets of labyrinthine flows. It can be outright dizzying, like the brain-frying wordplay in the middle of “Doodoo Damien:” “Flex on the rest of you bitches and that ain’t gender ‘pacific’/That’s all coast, almost kings—Edward, King James, not Olmos/That’s American me, where Eric B. for President set precedence with me.” He finds the connective tissue between disparate thoughts, his verses resembling a heat map visualization of the brain’s firing synapses. Over the slow-motion calypso rhythms of “Come Proper,” Cav invokes the writer bell hooks, wishes his exes well, and stubs out a joint in an overflowing ashtray—all within the first eight bars.

On the Quelle Chris-produced “Flourish,” amidst a flurry of self-confident boasts about his skills and wardrobe, Cav takes a moment to contemplate the difference between optimism and hope, noting: “My granny cops new lotto tickets while the doom clock’s ticking.” He’ll often interrupt his own knotty stanzas with calming images, as if he’s reminding himself to drop his shoulders and unclench his jaw. By the end of “Can’t Leave It Alone,” when he’s worked himself into a tizzy debating the internal pressures of his perceived potential, he pauses to prune a bonsai tree. In between pondering death and sex on “Yeah Boiii,” he peels a Satsuma orange.

Throughout the album, Cav grounds himself in the craft. He’s a self-professed hip-hop nerd, peppering verses with allusions to Cooley High and Bob James’ perpetually sampled “Nautilus,” or repurposing lines from Ol’ Dirty Bastard, A Tribe Called Quest, or Jay-Z songs. The backlit boom-bap beat that producer foushou. provides for the mid-album highlight “Told You” prompts Cav to find a pocket like a young Nas, creating an introverted, alternate-dimension version of “The World Is Yours.” Though he’s undeniably a student of the ’90s golden era, Cav shows clear reverence for that sound without overtly trying to recreate it. When he does have the rare wistful old head moment, it comes off as charming, never scolding.

The only two guest rappers, credited as Unhoused Brothers in the liner notes, are men Cav met serendipitously while traveling to cities where his producers lived. One has his own song, “Baby I’m Home,” while the other appears at the end of “Told You” and “Axiom / My Gawd.” Both of these encounters occurred on the same day—the first moments before Cav left Detroit, the second shortly after he landed in Dallas. Cav has said in interviews that he made Different Type Time as a reaction to the breathless oversaturation and mindless overconsumption of the streaming age. The inclusion of these recordings on an album six years in the making solidifies Different Type Time as a poignant meditation on presence: The world moves too quickly, and there’s too much to process at any given time, but if you’re able to slow down—even for just a moment—you’ll find insight to gain and beauty to experience, folding into the cosmic energy that surrounds us all.