Schaffer the Darklord is an artist from New York who has been releasing music since the mid-‘00s. He has kept busy in recent years, with a lot of collaborations, singles, and rarities collections coming to us. His last full-length album came in 2018, as part of The Department of Darkness alongside Vince Vandal. Now he is back with a proper solo album, The Derelict Craft.

Much like 2013’s Sick Passenger, The Derelict Craft is also a concept album. The framing story around this album is that an artist has enlisted in a space program on a solo mission to investigate an abandoned extraterrestrial spacecraft. Before he gets to his destination, however, he awakens to find that his ship has failed, and he is now adrift in space himself. We then spend time with the artist as he contemplates his life and legacy. The great thing about a concept album like The Derelict Craft is that when they are done well, you can really get lost in the overall narrative, and spend all of this time getting into the character’s head and just immerse yourself in this new universe that Schaffer has constructed. That is, you can do that if that’s the level you want to engage with the album. You can also just pick out songs and enjoy them for what they are, because there are plenty of kickass hip hop songs that you can just bump and enjoy the lyricism and charisma of Schaffer the Darklord on the mic. With production from Ihaksi, RoboRob, Untested Methods, Jack Curtis, YoN L.i., El Diaz, Vinyll, Rujay, and Schaffer himself, the album hits a lot harder than most previous projects, spending more time with trap, electronic, and industrial beats that match this harsh sci-fi tone of the album. Schaffer then takes that launchpad and goes off over the course of the album with his performance as an emcee. Outside of a couple of voices of robots and communications with the spaceship, it’s just Schaffer rhyming his ass off on this album. What’s especially impressive here is that there’s this bigger narrative that everything fits into, but that framework also exists to push Schaffer in these interesting directions as he takes on the voice of this character who is contemplating his life as an artist, wondering what sort of legacy he’s leaving behind, and what lies ahead in his moment of isolation. How this translates into hip hop is that we get some killer battle raps, some playful rhymes, some anxious rhymes, and some deeply personal rhymes. In other words, it’s incredibly well rounded and takes you on an emotional roller coaster, all while remaining a really enjoyable hip hop album at the same time.

If you’re going to take your time in between projects, you need to make them count. Schaffer the Darklord more than made it count with The Derelict Craft, carefully constructing a concept album that really makes you think, while also delivering a great hip hop album with amazing production and top notch lyricism. It’s an album that is so deeply layered, you can keep turning back to it and discover something new each time through.