Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer

University of Missouri-St. Louis Alex Yentumi, senior, civil engineering – known as Zen Mugen – raps “Been ill since a zygote” in his debut EP “Full Circle,” available now on Soundcloud. A bold statement, especially for the first line of a debut EP, but one that he follows up with plenty of support from the rest of his debut.

Yentumi, along with fellow Triton Will Berkowitz, senior, international business, is a member of the local jazz/hip hop collective, LOOPRAT. They both work on music as members of LOOPRAT and on solo projects. Yentumi’s EP includes seven tracks, three of which are produced by another LOOPRAT MC and producer, Davie Napalm; the rest are borrowed tracks by Pete Rock, Nujabes, Dilla, and The Sound Providers.

Yentumi’s style is similar to the jazz/hip hop combination of LOOPRAT, but with more ambient, lo-fi, and experimental leanings. Some of the tracks are reminiscent of the soundtracks of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, which is not surprising due to the fact that he is a huge fan of anime. Hailing from St. Louis, his subject matter covers everything from racial tensions and community issues to zen wisdom and spirituality. His approach has a positive slant, while still staying real to his life and experiences. A conscious rapper, comparisons to classic Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul can definitely be heard, with influences by The Roots and Guru’s Jazzmatazz series. The best tracks on the EP are produced by his fellow LOOPRAT MC, Davie Napalm, who produces the majority of LOOPRAT’s recordings.

Yentumi, born and raised in University City, will graduate with honors from the Pierre Laclede Honors College. His ties to that neighborhood run deep, with all but two members of LOOPRAT also hailing from University City. After graduation, he said, “I’ll likely keep creating and getting certified as a professional engineer. Figuring out how to tour and maintain my professional trajectory will be tough, but I like a challenge.” Ultimately, Yentumi would like to go to law school.

He said, “Being a civil servant is my objective through music and engineering.” Of his experience at UMSL, he feels, “Flexibility is awesome here. I have been able to figure out how to be my best version despite my varied struggles. The professionals here always gave me opportunities to succeed and had faith for me to take chances and to give me second chances.” When he’s not in class or working on music, he likes to watch anime, play soccer, and study politics and psychology.

Zen Mugen and the LOOPRAT collective are on an upward trajectory, playing various shows in St. Louis and also touring throughout the Midwest. When the “Full Circle” EP dropped last year, Zen Mugen performed the whole EP at the Firebird in support of Grieves, a rapper out of Chicago.

The best place to find information about Zen Mugen and the LOOPRAT collective is at www.looprat.com, which has links to their music available online as well. Don’t sleep on this incredibly talented UMSL Triton MC, and definitely catch LOOPRAT at their next live event. You will not be disappointed in either.