Let’s talk about Issa Gold’s mixtape art. He’s sitting on a tangerine colored wisp of a cloud, reaching out toward a shiny, fluttering butterfly as a whole fucking swarm of more sparkly butterflies crash in through his fantastical floating window. The background is mostly a purplish lava lamp sorbet swirl. And it’s all a pretty accurate representation of the mixtape.
As one-half of the Flatbush rap duo the Underachievers, Issa Gold already has a few years of brainy crystalline wordsmith-ness under his belt, but Conversations With A Butterfly is Gold’s first solo tape and it’s a crazy, gravity-less concept album wherein Gold’s love interest is a butterfly.
Kat Sanchez’s chapbook, You Are Either The Fire The Hummingbird The California Coast or The Act Of Falling Backwards In This Story, boasts cover art that looks like a waxy image of a mountain, maybe, but also kind of like a Rorschach test of colorful oil paints. Her poems contain an element of the mundane, a question of what significant element of existence lies in things that don’t seem to matter, and where to find this element.
If Issa Gold is entrapped in a psychedelic, cerebral unknowable wordfire, then Sanchez is focused on the surface conditions, accepting that “there are some mysteries that are / just beyond our knowledge,” (“Valley Girl”), while Issa himself is narrating a mystery.
To access You Are Either The Fire The Hummingbird The California Coast or The Act Of Falling Backwards In This Story so you can follow along, click here. To download Conversations with a Butterfly (for free), click here.
A smooth, smoke lounge horn flourish tops off a song about a girl who once wrote a song about Issa. He says in an interview that the song she wrote was bad, but hey, it still inspired this.
Pair with: “In the same dream”
Sanchez writes, “I have seen a dead bird / but not a thousand dead birds like when the world ends.” The image of a dead bird as a warning sign for thousands of dead birds and also the apocalypse pushes nicely against the idea that a bad thing could also be the precursor to a good thing.
Like that anxious party game the song is named after, this track starts and stops, stuttering into a swirled custard twister of repetitive actions: “Back and forth, all around/I chase you down, you chase me round.” I swear, it sounds better when he says it.
Pair with: “The planes fly overhead”
“This poem is made / of circles” are the opening lines here, which makes it seem a little too easy to find the connection, but Gold also tweeted that “Musical chairs” is about confidence being mistaken for ego, so it’s really a cyclical “nothing is as it seems”/”where are my pants” kind of thing.
This title is like “flip a coin” and it’s also about girl problems. Issa Gold has a lot of girl problems, I guess.
Pair with: “Dream about a girl I know”
Almost any poem would work here, because Sanchez’s entire collection functions under the premise that moments in isolation, or the negative space of those moments, have a translucent significance. But this poem features the line, “I want to pummel her and her nice hair / And her nice clothes and her shitty makeup / I don’t want to marry the nice boy from high school,” which gives a little weight to Gold’s relationship fluctuations.
“Lions Can’t Fly”
Rap Genius says this song is “a conversation between Issa, the lion, and a girl, the butterfly.” “Lions Can’t Fly” is the track where the whole concept album gets a little bit clearer, but I think it’s also where Gold finally admits that sometimes he’s wrong.
Pair with: “Chinatown, July”
“Blue crabs scuttle / in a window / aquarium But / the whole sky is around me / Pigeon is on / the menu.” The lines in this poem are truncated and choppy, creating a feeling of on-the-edge weightlessness, as well as the sense that, on a grand scale, you are very very small.
Besides cool puns and a stuttering, skipping rope beat, this track also has a Prince reference and a slick, conversational expletive parade. I think it’s also worth mentioning that it’s exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds long.
Pair with: “In the afterlife, we are flamingos”
“I am a brain surgeon in my dreams / And then I am not / You are all the birds behind me at the zoo.” There are some weed words for you.