Design by Madison Grosvenor. Buy this photo.

In the ever-growing underground rap scene, there are few musicians as revered and inventive as the elusive BONES.

Hailing from Howell, Mich., the artist (born Elmo O’Connor) has achieved legendary status for his dark aesthetic, impeccable flow and prolific output. BONES typically releases several projects every year, and his rapid pace continues with the release of his collaborative mixtape with producer Deergod, PushingUpDaisies. The mixtape is BONES’s first release of 2021, and a promising sign to fans who hope he will continue to frequently release songs.

While PushingUpDaisies contains several stylistic elements that are characteristic of much of BONES’s music, the influence of Deergod is not to be overlooked. Several tracks on the album are instrumental, and they showcase the intricacy of Deergod’s production quite well. Deergod’s beats often feature older, more distorted instrumental samples, layered with subtle bass and rolling drum tracks.

While BONES has shown his readiness to utilize more trap-type beats, there is a notable absence of these on PushingUpDaisies. Evidently, Deergod’s production style skews more toward drums that sound like the product of a drum set overlaid with more traditional hip-hop bass elements. On songs like “PopRocks” and “MeetYourMaker,” BONES seamlessly glides into Deergod’s signature style, showcasing the effortless flow that has made him an indie-rap legend.

Another impressive aspect of the album is the contrast between the melancholy instrumental melodies that BONES prefers and the mellow, easy-listening melodies of Deergod. BONES showcases his versatility both through rapping on these beats with songs like “P.S. 118” and expanding his range on songs like “ComingToTerms,” where he croons over a homely acoustic guitar riff. 

BONES’s influence has been felt throughout not only the underground scene but also the mainstream, with Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky as one notable fan who borrowed both the beat and BONES’s hook from his 2013 song “Dirt” for his 2015 track “Canal St.”

His lo-fi vocals and production style have influenced rappers and artists of other genres too, as the distorted sounds characteristic of the lo-fi genre have taken popular music by storm in the last several years. BONES’s albums continue to pioneer this aesthetic, and the production on his albums often reflects not only his personal mood but what will soon be a popular melodic or percussive element in mainstream hip hop (i.e. muted, distorted piano). 

BONES also possesses more stylistic diversity than your typical run-of-the-mill rapper. He often experiments with emo rap and trap metal, serving as a template for artists like Lil Peep and Trippie Redd to emulate. Some of BONES’s work from the early 2010s sounds like it could easily have been released during the emo-rap boom of 2017 to 2019.

BONES’s influences also exemplify his diversity as an artist. While he rarely interacts with the media, he has mentioned soul artists like Marvin Gaye and rock musicians like Stevie Nicks as some of his influences. His awareness and appreciation for those artists also display his willingness to explore new genres in his work.

With another quality project released with little fanfare, BONES continues to solidify his legacy as one of this generation’s most underrated artists.

Daily Arts Contributor Ryan Brace can be reached at