CoCec is the collaboration between Flagstaff artists Collin “.smallz” Haviland on vocals and Cecil Tso, aka Tsoh Tso on the beats. They first came together in 2018 to drop the EP Life Sucks but the Music is Good. While they had talked off and on about doing a proper follow up to that project, this was not the path they initially imagined the new project would take. Starting with a compilation of beats that Tso had shopped around to other artists, only to have them pass or sleep on them, CoCec initially thought they might just make something like a mixtape to just tide themselves over as they figured out what the next move would be. As they started to record to these beats, though, things started to click, and pretty soon they were reaching out to friends and collaborators to bring everything into focus, turning into the album we now have before us, The Inimitable.

While this ultimately turned into an album, there are certainly moments where you can still get that mixtape energy, such as on the opening “39er,” where Tso is laying down some pretty classic boom bap and .smallz is just ripping some rhymes, feeling the pocket, and not giving too much concern about a hook. As you start to work your way into the album, however, things start to get much more musically complex and ambitious, as the two start to craft a sound that brings in punk, emo, folk, and post-rock into their hip hop, and they start getting more personal and intimate with their lyricism. Sometimes this is achieved by reaching out to some collaborators, such as Donivan Berube, Moltensky, Tre Orona, An Illustrated Mess, DJ 001, OHM AOTA, or Carnage the Executioner, who all help round out the sound of the album and give you that varied texture over the course of ten tracks. At the core of everything, though, this is about the creativity of Tso’s production, and how he manages to bring all of his musical influences together under the umbrella of hip hop, and how .smallz is able to weave these personal narratives together with some classic shit talking, a few solid sing-along choruses, and just enough politics of what it means to be part of a Native American hip hop scene without the project only being about that. Because they put in this work, the album reveals itself more to the listener each time through, as you start to see how all of this different pieces are connected.

The Inimitable is an album that came about in an untraditional way, but however it got here, it worked. That’s because CoCec are a duo that push each other creatively in all the right ways, and they learned to trust themselves and the music in the process, coming up with an unexpected but rewarding album when all is said and done.