JUICETHERIDDLER: CLEAR

There’s always more than meets the eye. Hip Hop out of any genre of music seems to be the most contradictory of musical genres. Nearly every rap song contains enough lyrics to be it’s own short story, yet at the same time it’s incredibly blunt, honest, and real. There’s no paragraph upon paragraph explaining why the protagonist is infatuated with a woman because of her beautiful hair. It strips away that bullshit. Because let’s be real; who the fuck falls in love with a woman for her hair? Now seeing a girl’s boobs through her white dress…that is believable.

Yet even if you strip away the beautiful poetic verses about a woman’s hair, or how a girl has perky titties, and a nice pussy–you’re still going to have the same problems. In JUICETHERIDDLER’s CLEAR you see an honest depiction of what it’s like to be a man in 2019. Whether it’s trying to impress your Dad, escape your peers to become a bigger success, dealing with vices, or having something as tragic as somebody cheating on you. It’s all presented with this brutal honesty that doesn’t hold anything back.

It’s the depiction of these problems that is where the contradiction lies. While at one point saying that he doesn’t want to have sex with someone he can’t connect with, the next he’ll rap about hooking up with some freaky chick with braces. There’s genuine introspection about his life, all of his goals, aspirations, hopes, and dreams–yet there’s this thing gnawing at him. It’s what gnaws at us all. And in this review we’ll look into what this “thing” is, and how JUICETHERIDDLER does such a great job of showing us these issues that surround every Millennial.

What a better place to start than My Life. Which is a perfect opener for this album because it does a great job of introducing us to JUICETHERIDDLER. The opening begins with these shimmering synths that sounds like a crib’s mobile, and this ethereal amorphous background. Then there’s this amazing bass, pitch perfect beat, mixed in with these faint vocals. The faint vocals appear throughout the entire album, which sounds like a choir of ghosts. Depending on the track they can either be literal samples of older music, or just be ambient vocals. Either way they do a great job of thematically showing us the past.

Which is what this track is, a reflection of the past. Or if this were a movie this would be the opening montage. We see the life that JUICETHERIDDLER had “Before the storm” we understand and empathize with his struggles. For me, personally, the line about wanting to be a doctor to help his Dad in pain does a great job of showing what kind of person JUICETHERIDDLER is. One being a doctor is an incredibly bold, and ambitious aspiration. It’s one of those societal benchmarks that shows that you’re a big shot. And two, the reason he wanted to be a doctor was to help his Dad.

This is the central drama within JUICETHERIDDLER and it’s laid out bare in this opening track. At one point you see the ambitious drive within him. You see how he wants to escape his surroundings, chose better friends, and get on the right track. Yet with ambition there is always baggage. Being a doctor is an automatic sign to people that you’re well off, smart, and hardworking. Yet how do you measure that success with music? With hot women, money, sex, power, etc. Yet at the end of the day JUICETHERIDDLER still aspires to something greater, something more noble.

Then we get to Family Ties, which starts off with that choir of ghosts. Which is fitting to the subject matter of the song which is basically the story of anybody who is going through the struggle. Either from foreclosures, poverty, financial hardships, family problems, unrealized potential, the pain of growing old etc.

It’s so blunt, honest, and raw that it’s songs like this is when Hip Hop is at it’s peak. Hip Hop has such a unique ability to tell long stories in a short amount of time. Yet with this increased verbosity, the stories that are told are so stripped down. It’s not something that you need to analyze to death, you either feel it or you don’t. Yet what JUICETHERIDDLER does here is something very unique and special. That is the “Slice of Life” samples. Whether it’s arguments, pieces of advice, or the emotionally honest ending, in which JUICETHERIDDLER just says what’s on his mind. It’s this technique that does an incredible job of relating what JUICETHERIDDLER’s life to that of the listener.

I can’t understate how incredible these samples are to this album. Let’s take the Smiths for example, nearly everyone of their songs have this day in the life kind of drama. But with Morrissey’s great lyricism, nerdy quotes from obscure references, and dramatized retelling of events–it adds a lot of style to these otherwise mundane events. Yet at the same time as an artist it’s easy to write a song about being a bigmouth and comparing yourself to Joan of Arc. But it’s incredibly hard to rap about your family, bring up deeply personal issues, have samples from your real life, etc. This is what separates Hip Hop from most other music genres. While most hide behind smoke and mirrors to deliver their message, Hip Hop cuts through the bullshit and says what’s on the artists mind.

Then we get to Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas/No Good. This is where I’ll have to mildly critique the album. There are about 5 tracks, that are in actuality two separate songs. While the production does a really great job of seamlessly blending each track, the tracks are each about 7 minutes long. Now unless you’re doing some avante garde piece, or are writing an orchestra, 7 minutes is a long time to listen to a song. Regardless of how well produced it is, most listeners will develop listener fatigue, and just give up a quarter way through the song. Which is a shame and a terrible thing, yet it’s the truth.

So with that out of the way let’s look at Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas. While the first two tracks introduced us to JUICETHERIDDLER the next two tracks introduce us to his environment. Immediately the tracks separates itself from the two preceding it, by placing more of an emphasis on the synths. While the other two were this amorphous ethereal atmosphere, the synth cuts through that. As though a bright light is being shown on JUICETHERIDDLER’s environment. Which is compounded by the slice of life lyrics of Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas.

Each one of these snapshots of his surroundings, and JUICETHERIDDLER’s maturity shows the pitfalls, traps, and barriers that he has overcome. Yet it’s told in a way that is both highly personal, and yet easily accessible. Let’s say that some guy who lived in a lap of luxury his whole life, grows up and goes to an Ivy League school. Or scratch that, he even is able to work as Vice President at his Dad’s company without a college degree. Eventually there’s going to be a point in his life where he realizes that not everybody is after his best interests. Not only that but they are willing to do anything to him to best serve their interests.

It’s when JUICETHERIDDLER gets venomous with this track that it becomes so cathartic for the listener. Because when we all go through that rat race of life, we’re all eventually going to be fucked over. Yet it’s this song that gives a voice to that, a release of that pent up frustration. Because whether it’s your group of friends, the streets, or a corporate board office–everybody eventually comes to terms with the fact it’s a dog eat dog world.

So we continue this slice of life with No Good. Immediately it begins with the ambient sound of people shopping. Then you hear it. The alarm that goes off when something hasn’t been scanned. Or when something has been shoplifted.

Immediately as a listener you’re on edge. After all when an alarm goes off it’s supposed to alarm you. Then when the heavy distorted bass, and open hi-hats start playing. It’s a sound that is a sound that is on edge. It’s not a celebratory sound, rather it’s one of danger, and caution. When JUICETHERIDDLER says, “Hoes give em’ top watch them like a hawk.” You feel that sense of why he says that from the production alone.

Yet while I complained about the combination of songs into one song, Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas/No Good may just prove me wrong. Because we see the surroundings that JUICETHERIDDLER is in, and how that has shaped his perception. Take for example one of the more tragic lines, “I thought she was my right hand, she ended up sucking niggas with her left hand.” Is thematically perfect for these two songs. When JUICETHERIDDLER asks you in Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas if you’d be willing to murder for another person. In No Good we get the answer to that loyalty: which is that the girl who is your “Right hand,” returns your loyalty by blowing a bunch of guys.

Now let me remind you that this kind of perception that’s laid out is even more tragic. It’s tragic because this is the same guy who wanted to be a doctor to help his Dad. It’s tragic because you can see that JUICETHERIDDLER is someone who wants something better. Yet there’s something there that’s gnawing at him. And to figure that out we have to go further in this album review.

The next song, Friends with Benefits. Is the rebound song. It’s got those stereotypical triplet hi hats, with the swirling pads, auto-tuned vocals, everything that’s pretty prevalent in Hip Hop today. Which isn’t a complaint. If something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Yet the juxtaposition of the lyrical content between this song, and a few others is where the contradiction lies. Where before there was a desire to form a relationship rather than just having sex. Now there’s the desire to just say, “Fuck it, let’s just fuck.” Now if we were to employ the K.I.S.S. method it could be that this song was written before the events described in the previous tracks. Or maybe they liked the subject matter. It’s anybody’s guess.

I’m not a mind reader, yet when an artist chooses to include or exclude something from an album there is always an underlying meaning behind it all. This is where the album now becomes smoke and mirrors. Where before it was brutally honest, now it’s become a little more guarded. Why? Well Susan Sontag said, “It is not suffering as such that is most deeply feared; but suffering that degrades.”

When placed in an environment that is depicted in Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas/No Good, everybody is eventually going to be humiliated. It’s a fact of life. If you’re in a dog eat dog world, eventually you’re going to get eaten. You can’t escape from it, you can’t run from it, it will eventually happen. Yet it’s how we cope with this that separates the wheat from the chaff. For JUICETHERIDDLER he coped by making art, and if some of that art is him bragging about hooking up with chicks. That’s a very valid form of expression.

The problem lies with this track, and a few others in isolation. If I didn’t know JUICETHERIDDLER from his previous songs, I couldn’t write a review on his music. Mainly because there’s more to life than pussy. The other reason is that it doesn’t interest me. Yet his emotional honesty, in his previous tracks, are so brutal and so honest, that even if you’re a snob like me you can’t help but enjoy every aspect of this person’s music.

The next song, To The Party, I’m not even going to lie–I love it way too much. It’s that flute, combined with the beat, and even some of the lyrics that are just way too fun not to enjoy. He could literally be rapping about Chef Boyardee and I would still be in love with this song.

I know I set it up in the previous paragraph that songs about partying/pussy/seeing boobs through a white dress, is something I look down on. Yet I’m also the person who knows that staying up all night smoking, playing video games, and eating Dominoes pizza is bad for you; yet I still do it. I believe that the reason I like this song so much, is that it psyches you up so much for a good time. When I instantly heard this song I already felt like I was in a party. When he’s got lines like “Rolling up to the party, looking like Illuminati.” How can you possibly top that? You show up to a party looking like a global cabal of people who control the world. Doesn’t that psyche you up for a party? Don’t answer, because it does.

Next up we have Bitch/Pull Up (WYA?) which furthers this party kind of vibe from the previous tracks. It dials up the bravado to 11, and while it does really interesting production techniques, specifically with the reverse tape loop of the previous tracks. Yet this is one of the times where the combining of two songs doesn’t really work. They don’t really tie in to each other thematically, other than they’re both hype songs.

While I’ve addressed JUICETHERIDDLER’s lyrics. I haven’t delved into the technical aspect of his raps. Mainly because Hip Hop is at a plateau of sorts. When everybody praises Eminem for Rap God, Busta Rhymes was doing long before Eminem, and was far more technically adept. It’s at a point where rock was at with singers, guitarists, drummers, etc. Where it became overindulgent and as a result, newer and younger artists scaled back the virtuosity to deliver something new and original. So when looking at Hip Hop, technicality has to be judged as it is in Rock. Where, yes, Freddy Mercury can sing his heart out. But Kurt Cobain’s scratchy, marbled mouth vocals hits me in the feels and that’s all that really matters.

Which brings me to a critique, and something that I hope doesn’t discourage anybody but just a point in the right direction. Pull Up (WYA?) is technically proficient. It’s an incredibly clever, technical, piece of lyricism. Yet the delivery is where the problem is. Female vocals can add a lot to a track. Since,well women have a lot more pleasing voices (generally) then males do. Yet the lyrics are delivered in such a deadpan emotionless way. It could be due to nerves, production flaws, or focusing on the wrong aspects of a song. Yet if you’re bragging about yourself, you need to exude confidence. If that falls flat, then the whole song falls apart.

Next up we have BOD. Which starts off with this amazing loop of a guitar. It’s a guitar that is both sensual while at the same time maintains this sense of melancholy. JUICETHERIDDLER does an excellent job of using this soundscape to weave such an interesting and tragic look at relationships.

Now BOD could mean two things, it could be an acronym for blacked out drunk, or it could refer to somebody’s body. Both interpretations are equally valid. Yet this is where JUICETHERIDDLER gets back into form. I’ve said before how he vividly he described his surroundings in Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas/No Good. It’s in this song though he manages to describe all of our surroundings.

What do I mean about that? From the looped guitar, to the bleak lyrics, it all paints a picture of the current dating scene. Imagine if you would, describing Tinder to somebody back in the 90’s. Everybody would think that you would be describing some Sci-Fi dystopian world. Yet it’s the world that we find ourselves in. Where we are all connected to people all across the world, and yet most people can’t find a single date on an app that has millions of users on it. It’s a world where people would rather do drugs, than connect. That would rather be blacked out drunk, then to have a meaningful relationship.

Then JUICETHERIDDLER adds even more salt to the wound. That chicks would snort cocaine off of the floor, that they would sell their soul for more drugs, and through all of that, it’s only when they are high that they can show love. Then he reveals that they won’t even remember when they did show you love because they were so fucked up. If that’s not brutally honest then I don’t know what is. Now you could switch genders, and blah blah blah blah. Who cares? The point is that this track doesn’t portray drug addiction as some glamorous thing, it cuts through the bullshit and tells you how it is.

Now we go from the social to the personal in the next song, It Has Been A Min. Where we see the response that JUICETHERIDDLER has to this apocalyptic dating scene we find ourselves in. With the looped vocal samples, melancholy keys, and heavy distorted bass. It has this heightened sense of danger, yet at it’s melancholy, and has an almost introspective kind of sound.

This is compounded by the fact that JUICETHERIDDLER describes in vivid detail about a girl he’s with. How she is able to attend college, when he’s unable to, and he sees her change into a different person. She loses a bit of the innocence that she once had, as time goes on, and the song progresses we see how the distance between them grows greater. Until at the end when we hear the chorus, “It’s been a minute.”

This track has a lot of great aphorisms inside of it, my personal favorite is, “Love is not a noun, it’s a verb.” All of these little quotes, little slice of life dramas, are absolutely done in a perfect way. It’s like the Smiths except without the celibacy. This is where JUICETHERIDDLER is at peak form, and when he gets it right, he absolutely nails it. This song in particular does such a great job of nailing the dating scene for millenials/zoomers/or whatever.

If you think about it, the only difference between them both is that one went to college, and the other didn’t. But from that minute detail, that minor change of life, has completely changed a person into something they’re not, or at least shouldn’t be. Where before in Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone has this almost mythic story about a girl who has it all, and loses it all. Here in this song it’s told in a more realistic way. It doesn’t require beauty, wealth, genius, or whatever to lose your soul. Even if you go on the right track, go to college, get a degree, get a job, get married, etc. You are still capable of losing your integrity, who you are, and even your soul.

Next up we have another 2 for 1 song, 4eva Scarred/Love? 4eva Scarred has one of those great vocal samples that I just love. It has that choir of ghosts kind of sound, and the fact it’s looped throughout the track accomplishes this repetitive kind of misery. It’s misery that bangs on your head over and over again, like a thought or regret that you just can’t shake off. Which is furthered by the lyrics that deal with heartbreak.

Heartbreak is something that everybody has to go through. It’s one of those events that changes boys into men. It’s the event where you reevaluate yourself, and who are. Even the opening lines ask, “Why am I saying goodbye to you?” It’s that thought that gnaws away at you. That scrapes away your insides, emotionally gut punches you, and erodes all of your bravado. It strips you naked, makes you vulnerable, and even questions who you are. Are you still the same guy who, “Made that pussy purr?” Because if you are, then why are you saying “Goodbye?”

No matter how tough of a guy you are, a breakup is an ego destroyer. You’ll do anything you can to rebuild any resemblance of dignity in the face of the adversity. So when we get to Love? it’s the process of building yourself up. Not through bravado but through virtue. Where the morality of being in love is being assessed. Where before JUICETHERIDDLER has rapped 75% about the girl he’s with, and 25% about himself. In this song it’s a brutal reflection of what he was like in that rare state of mind we call “Love.” Where even though his heart was in the right place, his actions spoke differently.

Males have a variety of ways to deal with breakups, you can go hit up the clubs, binge on tinder, have one night stands, going on a drinking/drug binge, etc. All very unhealthy ways to go through the healing process. Yet when JUICETHERIDDLER goes through Love? we see the healthy alternative. Which is to see things as they are, to evaluate in brutal honesty who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. It’s in this song that we see that process unfold.

Then we get to Loose Ends. Which does an even a better job than Love? in my opinion, to illustrate how to deal with heartbreak. Throughout this album we’ve been hearing from JUICETHERIDDLER’s perspective. Now with this introduction from a female British poet, we get a broadened view of what love is, and what love can be. Because after all, if you’re trying to figure out the answer to love within yourself, it’s going to be like drawing from a poisoned well. This poet sample in particular seems like something that JUICETHERIDDLER or really anybody would use to help navigate the hostile mental landscape of what a breakup is.

Then there’s the actual music, the beat is at it’s peak in this track, the kick is phenomenally produced, and the snare is just so aggressive. Then there’s the amazing vocal samples, that sound like the choir of ghosts. Combine the samples, with the heavy beat, and it sounds like JUICETHERIDDLER is escaping his past. He’s moving past the breakup. While yes there are moments when he does relapse into thinking about his ex, trying to get back with her, and even at the end is this wonderfully produced phone call, there’s a sense of momentum. That while yes, it was painful to go through, it’s still painful to be going through it, eventually you’ll move past it.

Midnight Drive on the other hand, shows the ugly desperation that everybody will go through after a breakup. While the previous track had these really aggressive kicks, they seem more muted in this track. Even the snare which seemed to cut through everything seemed dialed down a bit. While the reverse open hi hats does the same thing as the synths in Niggas Ain’t Your Niggas, in that they have this harsh kind of tone which shines a light to this desperation.

Whether it’s making a scene at an Applebees, driving alone at midnight, or bawling in the front seat of his car. This shit is painful to go through. While other artists in other music genres try to dress up a relationship in this kind of grandiose romantic tragedy, JUICETHERIDDLER isn’t afraid to say, “Yeah I made a scene at an Applebee’s and right after that I was bawling in the front seat of my car.” That takes a LOT of bravery to write about a breakup in such a clear, vivid, and emotionally honest way.

That’s the first part of the song, the second part of the song is where I nerd out. Anybody who was alive at the 90’s immediately recognizes that DBZ sample. Which is a perfect kind of counterpoint to the rest of the song. I don’t think there is anybody who has watched DBZ and immediately wanted to be Goku. But it’s not just wanting to be Goku that is important, the escapism that Goku provides. That if you could just turn Super Saiyan, have the ability to destroy solar systems. You wouldn’t even need relationships. Fuck that. You could rule the world, have harems, all the money in the world, and all the power right at your fingertips.

Yet remember when I said that JUICETHERIDDLER was contradictory? Mainly because there are points in this album where he will state how deep his love is, and yet want to fuck random freaky girls. This is where it all clicks. That if you could just be more successful, if you could just have more power, money, and fame. Then you wouldn’t have to go through things like heartache, seeing your house foreclosed on, your Dad in pain, family troubles or any of that. You could just escape if you just became successful enough. Which what I believe gnaws at JUICETHERIDDLER just like it gnaws at me, you, and everybody else in this world.

It’s then when we get to songs like Hard To Trust. The ghostly choir is gone. We’ve moved passed the past, and now we’re in the present. Where we see the struggle, whether it’s going through a fight, and then right afterwards the girl says she loves you. Does she mean it? Is it sincere? There’s so much conflict, and even though there seems to be reconciliation, there’s still so much bullshit to put up with. “Forgiveness is the focus,” yet there’s so much baggage. The grudges are still there, it’s still a struggle.

Then we go to the escapism of Juss Wanna/Fiji. Juss Wanna is incredibly sensual with that looped soulful music. This song out of all of the songs is baby making music. There’s no denying that. Then there’s the lyrics, “I’m the king where’s my crown?” If this was a movie this would be the typical, “They Lived Happily Ever After,” ending. Where all of the issues that was addressed in CLEAR has finally been resolved. All the haters are gone, his girl calls him in the morning because she’s horny, his riding around in his car like a king, and his dad is proud of him. This is the ending JUICETHERIDDLER wants his life to come out to.

Then we get to Fiji which shows the counterpoint to JUICETHERIDDLER’s vision. In the opening seconds of this song we hear samples of a woman talking about some games she’s about to play on the guy she’s with. This is where the saying, “No man is an Island” that no matter how beautiful your vision is, no matter how great for both parties it is, you have to deal with other people. Other people with their schemes, their plots, their petty games, or even their own individualized grand visions. In which they’re the king/queen of their own world.

Then track opens up with this frantic flutes loop, frantic hi hat triplets, and even congas. The congas, I’m not going to lie, surprised me since it’s not something that’s typically used in Hip hop. Everything in this track is produced to create this frantic sort of feeling. It’s a desperate kind of sound. While the lyrics are about making a girl’s pussy so wet, that your dick slips in and out like water. The sound tells a different story. Put these two contradictory sounds together and you get the feeling, that while at face value it’s a typical rap bravado kind of track. Behind the smoke and mirrors it’s the wish of someone who is trying everything he can to salvage a relationship. To rebuild whatever chemistry they had, to have the relationship they once had together.

Then when we get to Special the hyper-sexuality increases. Whether it’s due to a guest rapper, a song written before the breakup, after the breakup, or whatever. Regardless the same principle applies. That if it’s included, it was by the artists’ design. This time instead of focusing on rebuilding the relationship, it’s the same kind of escapism that every straight male faces. The opportunity to hookup with a chick. Just some freaky chick, to get it out of your system, no love, no strings attached. I mean anybody who watches porn does this exact same thing.

It’s universal principle, to perhaps, all people. We all want to be loved, we all want to be in a happy relationship, and have our “They Lived Happily Ever After.” Yet there’s that lizard brain in all of us, who just so desperately want to fuck every girl that walks on two legs. To abandon those higher values of fidelity, marriage, having kids, and all of that. Just to be able to have sex with some freaky chick. Yet JUICETHERIDDLER like all of us, just can’t do that. We can’t go fucking all the time, there’s something deep inside of all of us that compels us to be something better.

I’ve mentioned this before in a Hip Hop review. Where I mentioned C.S. Lewis, and it applies here as well. JUICETHERIDDLER could just go around fucking chicks, and not give any thought to a relationship. He could just abandon all reconciliations, and go around being a fuckboy. Yet there’s something that compels him not to do so. There’s some higher purpose that he knows that he’s destined for. Even when his surroundings bring him down into petty squabbles, he still aims for something loftier, something with more substance.

C.S. Lewis proposed in his Christian Apologetics, that the reason we feel this way, that life somehow loses it’s luster. That it’s meaningless, hard, brutal, and just plain vicious. Yet we all sense that there’s a higher purpose, a grander journey, something that we haven’t yet encountered here on Earth. That really we are all waiting for the day when our souls leave our bodies, and we are greeted by St. Peter. We all have souls, we all seek higher meaning, and we will fight tooth and nail to see that higher meaning fulfilled. With JUICETHERIDDLER we see that struggle come into fruition.

So finally when we get to Comeback Season/Clear we are immediately greeted by this fantastic guitar intro. Then we hear JUICETHERIDDLER’s most vicious vocal delivery. This is where JUICETHERIDDLER finally confronts his demons. He puts all those who stood in his way in the crossfire, and it’s at this point where he sees things clearly. He’s no longer seeking escapism, he’s coming onto his own, and fighting through his struggles.

With Clear we the razor sharp focus that he has developed through the struggle. If this was a Rocky movie this would be the final round. He’s been beat up, bruised up, has 10 seconds on the clock, and we see JUICETHERIDDLER focused. Ready for that knockout punch. He’s ready for that moment to shine. After all that we’ve seen him go through in this album, it’s impossible not to root for the guy. Yet this isn’t a battle for success as it is for meaning. He knows what he wants out of life, who he is, and how hard he will work to make that dream into reality.

Then at the very end, when the curtain falls, and the audience applauds–we hear a sample. An ambient sample of birds chirping, cars driving off in the distance, and it’s a tranquil sound. A sound of someone at peace. At peace with themselves, their surroundings, and who they are and who they want to be.

As I’ve said before this album was contradictory, which it is at face value. Yet it’s not. It’s a story of a man who tries to rise above the magnet tar pit trap of modern life to be something better. It’s the story of someone who rises above his surroundings, and his struggle. Who no longer stares down at the dirt, but looks up to the heavens.

Though there are a few minor problems I had with this album, I truly believe that JUICETHERIDDLER will blossom into a wonderful rapper. With his brutal, and fearless honesty he has created a work of art that has cut through all the bullshit, and gave a voice to all of us going through the same struggles.

With this incredibly long winded review out of the way, I give this album my full recc. Because let’s be real if I write 5,000 words on something I’m not going to not give it my recc. Please check him out, and support him on apple as well as spotify!

Gh0stboy: Red Ep.2

Something strange occurred at the turn of the millennium.  A strange mish-mash of rock genres fused together, into one all encompassing rock genre. It was a rock genre that synthesized frantic energy of punk, the melodic guitars of The Smiths, the guttural screams of metal, and the depressed lyrics of alternative rock. It was new, it was strange, and it was at the top of the charts.

I am of course talking about emo. Emo has taken on a kind of negative connotation. Even when it was first termed, the pioneers of emo rock despised being called “emo”. After all if you’re a hardcore punk band, and you’re labeled emo(tional) hardcore it’s kind of insulting. Imagine whatever genre of music you specialize in, then imagine some asshole music reviewer calling it emo-(music genre). It’s beyond perplexing. Isn’t all music emotional? Why is it a bad thing to be emotional? Isn’t the goal of music to express yourself? Now some journalist just called the way you express yourself, “emotional?” Who wouldn’t be pissed off at that?

Now take that bizarre label, then add some teenage angst to the mix, sprinkle in some consumerism, and what was before a sincere music genre becomes a commercialized suicidal death cult. It got to the point where I knew that if someone wore an Alkaline Trio t-shirt I could tell you their favorite movie, their favorite store, their hobbies, hell I could even tell you their socioeconomic background. Then, of course, like anything in the entertainment business, if one thing is successful, then there has to be 1 million copies of said thing.

Emo became bland. It become mediocre. From what was once a deeply personal, emotionally expressive music genre, became the soundtrack to every teenager slamming the door on their parents, “Because they just don’t understand me!” Teenage angst maybe profitable in the short term but eventually teenagers grow into adults. Then the whole, “Fuck you Dad you just don’t get it!” Turns into “Holy shit I was such an asshole to my Dad.” That’s how angst turns into cringe, which turns into all of us being lame adults.

So now we finally get to Gh0stboy’s album Red Ep.2 . Which when listening you can hear a lot of those old Emo band’s influence. Yet it’s morphed, and mutated into something wholly different. After all Emo is dead, along with Myspace, and flip phones. Yet it’s when a genre is dead, and other artists have time to reassess things when art becomes interesting.

Take synthwave for example. If you were to invent a time machine, show synthwave to someone in the 80’s and they’d have no idea what the fuck you’re listening to. Yet synthwave is inextricably tied to the 80’s. Now why is that? Well it’s because time has passed, fans of 80’s music sieved through the shitty part of 80’s music to find the golden nuggets that made 80’s music so endearing.

Likewise, Gh0stboy is accomplishing the exact same feat with Red Ep.2. For example if we take the opening track, Hart Filmpje. It doesn’t remotely resemble what we would consider, “Emo” music. It’s atmospheric, dark, ambient, experimental, etc. All things that emo music could have been, yet never explicitly were. Yeah you could say songs about cutting yourself, suicide, and blah blah blah are dark. Hell even some emo guitar riffs are really dark.

Yet there’s a world of difference between sinister guitar chords, and a sinister atmosphere. While one sounds sinister, the other envelops you in a sinister environment. Or a better comparison, it’s the difference between a jumpscare, and The Shining. While one is a director showing off how he can make his audience jump out of their seats, and fling their popcorn in the air. The other director (Kubrick for those who didn’t know) creates an atmosphere that lingers with you for days. It gets into your psyche and disturbs you. It makes you bring a flashlight to a dimly dark room, checking every corner of the house, and haunts you in your sleep.

If we go further with the horror movie comparison, it can be said that The Shining is a slasher flick. After all it’s a crazed man wondering a hotel with an axe. Yet at the same time to categorize it like that would be missing the mark. It’s the same principle with Red Ep.2. While yes, it could be seen as being emo, it’s missing the mark. It’s an artists own interpretation of all the great bands we grew up listening to, and god damn does it sound good.

Which brings me to my next point on reviewing this album. This album isn’t really a typical emo album. Sure there are rock songs in it, yet you can hear A LOT of cloudrap influence. In fact it gets to the point where this could be categorized as cloudrap. Yet I’m not going to do that, and it’s mainly to illustrate a point. That point being that emo music died because it refused to adapt.

Let’s rewind a bit, and go back into the mid 00’s when VH1 was having a special on the history of Heavy Metal.

Now the interesting thing about this documentary is the transition of Hair Metal to Thrash Metal, and then the saga of Metallica being sellouts and playing a more melodic sound. Which is coincidentally what Hair Metal sounded like, albeit with less makeup and hairspray. But what was really interesting was how ardently defensive they were on their definition of Heavy Metal music. How Van Halen’s Jump was garbage because it had a synthesizer, how Punk was too political and wasn’t Metal enough. Then at the end nearly every one of those Metal elitists joined arm in arm to praise Nu-metal. The most cringey genre of music humanly imaginable.

Now we get back to Gh0stboy’s Red Ep.2. Immediately after the first track you’ll begin to notice the amount of collaborators, producers, and other groups. Where usually the criticism that “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the dish” is a pretty good rule of thumb when judging collaborators on an album. Yet this principle does not apply here. In fact listening to each individualized track is a complete joy, not only for the song quality, but each interpretation of the genre.

Which should be every musicians aspiration when making an album. Just think of how many times you hear actors complain that they don’t want to be typecast into a role. Yet for some reason when it comes to music, musicians have no qualms whatsoever about being pigeonholed into one genre. Not only that, but they get angry when another artist strays away from that genre!

So now we get to the individual tracks, starting with Breaking Free (prod.madatracker) which starts with that stereotypical emo sound. With the melodic melancholy intro, to the the heavy distorted chorus of guitars. The vocals carry that kind of anthem for adolescent angst, with morose lyrics, and a chorus that just rouses the rebel in all of us. While yes, it is one of the more straightforward song in terms of it’s influences it still shouldn’t dissuade you from listening to it.

While the first song was kind of a shock to the system, Breaking Free (prod.madatracker) brings you back to a familiar state. Because after all if every song was like Hart Filmpje then this I wouldn’t be talking about emo rock. I would be talking about electronic ambient music. Yet because Hart Filmpje exists, followed by Breaking Free (prod.madatracker) it does something to the listener. Which is, it expands their perception of what an emo album can be, or even what a modern music album can be.

Take for instance the common tv/movie trope of the “Fish out of water main character.” It’s something that we as an audience take for granted, when exploring say film, novels, video games, or any other fantasy world. Look at Harry Potter for instance, imagine for a moment that he was brought up in the wizard world. Imagine how much exposition would have to be delivered to explain what a muggle was, that wizards exist in our world, that they send kids to a magical school with a Cerberus in the basement, whatever the fuck quidditch is, etc.

The basic idea is that the audience needs a character to relate to, something familiar for them to understand what is going on. Because no matter how imaginative the world is that the author created is, we still need to know what’s going on. Hence the “Fish out of water main character trope.” Which is exactly what Breaking Free (prod.madatracker) accomplishes. It’s a song that is familiar to us, and something we can latch on to. Yet as strange as the first song is, it sets us up to understand the rest of the album. That this is an exploration, an “Expanded Universe” of emo music.

Which brings me to my next song, Dark World (prod. L I L C L O U D I E ). This is the song where the album gets in it’s groove. While the two other tracks were both great songs, they served a sort of secondary purpose of showing the audience what they should expect in this album. This is the song where we get to see those expectations realized. 

From it’s moody, dark, melancholy guitar intro, to it’s trap influenced beat. This is the song which shows how Gh0stboy is willing to fuse together different genres, and work with other artists who are willing to experiment. Yet this isn’t like Nu-Metal where, “Hey let’s just rap over loud guitars!” Because there’s a lot more finesse that’s required to fuse together music genres.

So what’s the best way to fuse music genres? Well first look to the music aspect of it. Remove a singer/rapper’s vocals and I guarantee 99.9999% of people will recognize what genre of music that song belongs to. So if we were to go to rock music, what’s the most important instrument? What’s instrument that everybody pretends to play when listening to a rock song? It’s the guitar. What about hip hop? What’s the guitar of hip hop? Easy, it’s the beat. If you don’t believe me then listen to Dave Chappelle. So theory holds if you have a good beat, and a great guitar then it’s going to be a great fusion. Which is what this song accomplishes.

Next up we have Poltergeist (prod. D – Low) which further cements Gh0stboy’s hold into hip hop. From the creepy synths, to the beautifully distorted bass, and clear cutting percussion; everything sounds amazing. Then you have the vocals which are so well double tracked, and produced it creates this fun spooky environment. It’s such a cool song with the creepy ambience and just fucking amazing bass. It’s the kind of music that goth kids would walk slow motion down the street to, like in Reservoir Dogs, looking all badass.

Then we go to Past And Present (prod. Rodger) which is one of my favorite tracks I’ve listened to in a long time. Mainly because of that guitar/synth tone, or that melancholy atmosphere that reminds me of Silent Hill 2 which I’ve already written about how much I love that album. Even the lyrics about running away from your problems, combined with the melancholy atmosphere of the music just works perfectly with me. 

Which in all honesty, I don’t think this track which I enjoyed so much would have been possible for any of the emo bands I listened to growing up to make. From the weird distorted synth/guitar melody, frantic hip hop beat, and even the vocal performance with it’s emotional falsettos. Every single thing comes from a variety of influences. Yet they all work together to create this melancholy song about running away from your problems. Could you imagine My Chemical Romance, Hawthorne Heights, or Alkaline Trio using a hip hop beat? Or using that bizarre guitar/synth tone? No, they limited themselves, and while they made great music, I don’t see many kids wearing MCR t-shirts or listening to Nikki FM. Which proves to show, if you don’t look for every tool at your disposal, then no matter how hard you fight it you and your art will be forgotten.

With our next song, Red (prod. CASE B1ZZIE), we have to go back to the VH1 documentary on Heavy Metal. The whole documentary seemed to have this destination of Heavy Metal becoming more heavy, more brutal, more harsh, etc. They lampooned Van Halen for using synths, Hair Metal for being too commercial and pop sounding, and Metallica for making acoustic songs. Yet, not once did they ever mention using, say, different instruments, or using different techniques to sound heavier.

Red (prod. CASE B1ZZIE) is the song I’d show to any death metal band to illustrate how can be heavier by using a synth, samples, etc. For example let’s take electronic music, with the advent of Electro Punk, Death Grips, and even Dubstep. Electronic music has found a way to capture the same heaviness that was only reserved for heavy metal. In fact it creates a whole different feel, and aesthetic.

Take this track for example, it sounds like the ambient music of a nuclear holocaust. In fact the 808’s in this track doesn’t clash with the heavy metal sound of the song. In fact having 808’s in what would usually be a pure metal song only enhances the heaviness of the track. And if you want to purity spiral into being the heaviest sounding rock band, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to use tools that make your music sound heavier?

Next up we have My Oasis (prod.gangabeats) . This is the track where we can see not only how Gh0stboy is willing to experiment with different sounds/ambience/moods but how he can write a song that is thematically tied into the sound. The first thing right off the bat that you notice with this song is that great western sounding guitar. Well, not really a western guitar, but one that is used so often in media about westerns that we associate that kind of guitar sound with westerns. It’s like Johnny Cash’s albums made with Rick Rubin, while not sounding like a typical Johnny Cash album, all of those albums are still the most Johnny Cash songs ever made. 

Likewise the guitar captures this dry barren feel to it, and then Gh0stboys lyrics about “My Oasis” about having this emotional isolation. All of this works in tandem with that western acoustic guitar, that suggests this hot desert. The electric guitars sound dangerous, and the beat sounds like thunder in the sky. Then there’s the threatening lyrics about those who enter Gh0stboy’s oasis. None of this would work if the music didn’t create such a desolate environment. Change any aspect of the music, and I guarantee the lyrics, as strong as they are, would buckle down from the dark themes that are explored.

So now that we’ve addressed how Gh0stboy can write great lyrics, now we have to see how good he is at delivering them. Bringer Of Light has some of the best vocal performances on this album. Usually when Gh0stboy does falsettos he has that type of voice where you can hear a note off key, or some bizarre phrasing yet it’s so quickly corrected that it becomes a non-issue. Kind of like when you’re listening to some Post-punk, Brit-pop, indie or garage band where vocal virtuosity isn’t the center point but rather the emotion that’s conveyed with the vocals. It’s of course an acquired taste, and the argument could be made that while Ian Curtis couldn’t sing a Freddy Mercury song. Yet at the same time Freddy Mercury would be out of place in a Joy Division song.

With that out of the way, the falsettos in this track are done so incredibly well, and the harsh rap vocals in the beginning mesh beautifully with this smooth, harmonic, falsetto. Everybody notices the loud/quiet dynamic of, say the Pixies, but very few artists experiment with harmony and cacophony. We can say it’s rewarding as a listener to listen to a Pixies song, and hear the quite somber mood evolve into this loud grungy chorus. Yet there’s even a greater reward when an artist makes something that sounds unsettling, and morphs it into something beautiful. Which is exactly what Gh0stboy has accomplished in Bringer Of Light.

Then we get to the 9th song of the album, Number 9 (Prod Rise From The Ashez & Axiom). This is probably the only song I believe in the whole album which kind of failed on its premise. The reason I say this is because the intro is so strong, so emotional, and brings back those nerdy memories of HAL being disabled in 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Master’s final speech in Fallout. The reason, personally I find it kind of disappointing is mainly because it would have explored themes that aren’t really present in emo music. While yes, the lyrics fit thematically with the rest of the album. The intro of what sounds to be a dying robots last words, juxtaposed with a heavy rock soundtrack, doesn’t really work for me. It’s one of those things where it either has to be cut out, or further developed.

Better yet, I’ll provide an example to illustrate what I mean. Imagine you’re watching a science fiction movie. The opening scene has this really emotional scene about an astronaut’s robot being disabled. Tears are falling down off the astronauts face. The robot tries to reassure him, and slowly his words fall off into a stream of gibberish, as the robot just repeats his name over and over again. Then BAM! Jumpcut! To an army invading a castle in 1208 and now it’s a historical drama. No matter how well done the science fiction or historical drama of the film is, because there wasn’t a thematic link between them it doesn’t work. There needs to be a theme behind it.

Or in this case since we are talking about music, there needs to be a motif. Some piece of music that carries over between the two parts. While the heavy metal sound of the rest of the track works really well, and Gh0stboy has some fantastic screams. The beginning sets it up for failure. Which is an easy fix, and still deserves praise for the very least being bold enough to experiment with music.

This Fear (prod. NeighbouR Beats) on the other hand succeeds where Number 9 (Prod Rise From The Ashez & Axiom) fails. Not only that, but it shows off how well Gh0stboy can rap. Yeah, I bet I didn’t think you’d expect that. But everything works well here the intro fits perfectly with the rest of the track. The apathetic vocals in the beginning contrast well with the frenzied rapping. The creepy atmosphere of the synths, and 808s. Everything just works, and shows how well a song can sound when it follows through with a single theme. 

This song is also perfect for showing how far emo has come along. With the advent of cloudrap, and the 2020’s soon approaching. Emo eventually is going to be in vogue. With artists like Lil Peep, $UICIDEBOY$, and XXXTentacion emo has infected hip hop. Yet we all have to remember this isn’t about emo becoming rap, or rap becoming emo. Rather it’s artists who are realizing that there are more tools at their disposal. Which is why it’s important to recognize what Gh0stboy is accomplishing in this album.

Now we get to Dog (prod. PENTA) which is 2 minutes of the heaviest, most vicious music I have ever heard. From the guttural screams, heavy distorted screams, and hip hop beat this is the most perfect song to illustrate what I mean by using every tool at your disposal.

Let’s do it like this, say if you as an artist are tasked with making the most aggressive sounding song. How do you do it? What tools do you use? I’m pretty sure that any musician has a thousand different ideas of what they would use. Yet most of the time those ideas are never put into fruition. Why? Because somebody is limited to genre. They’re tied down to their tropes. Yet here is Gh0stboy using every genre, sub-genre, humanely possible to make the most aggressive sounding song humanely imaginable.

Finally we get to Eyes (prod. Ichiban) which has that Yung Lean kind of mysterious intro. Then we get those thudding 808’s, and aggressive almost metal sounding vocals. This is by far the most hard hitting, and yet ethereal track. That combines this melodic dream like synth with harsh vocals and 808s. Yet it’s the most perfect track to end the album on. After all listening to this album, and hearing all of the various influences of different bands, genres, and subgenres. It’s great to hear something so unique, so special, as it’s finale.

Now a lot of what I wrote could seem hyperbolic, after all I am sure there are a thousand emo bands who explored the themes that Gh0stboy has explored. In fact I’m willing to bet that some emo bands even used the same musical genres to express themselves. I’m sure that there was an ambient electronic soundscape of a song in at least one emo bands catalogue. Yet that’s not the point of this review. This review is more about how to approach a genre. How to stay fresh, and to innovate. To keep your music interesting, take it into bold, new, emotional frontiers. As well as knocking down the barriers between genres, which more often or not, limits an artists ability to create.

There’s no other album which does this better than Gh0stboy’s Red Ep.2. As an artist your first, and most important mission in making music should be to express yourself. To do that effectively, and sincerely you need to use every tool at your disposal. A feat which Gh0stboy and his collaborators nailed on the head.

With his ability to give us this expanded world of emo music. I give this album my full recc. Definitely check this out.

YUNG CHUCK: His whole entire soundcloud page

You know when you’re browsing youtube late at night. You’re watching some minecraft videos, and before you know it you’re watching some freaky shit. Whether it’s pimple popping videos, people acting crazy on police cams, weird schizophrenic streamers, we all have gone down that rabbit hole.

I’ve only touched on youtube, but I believe I’ve found the weird part of soundcloud, and God damn is it amazing. YUNG CHUCK is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. At one point he will floor you with his creativity only to say, “Fuck it, I’m going to throw in random anime samples because why not?” It’s that kind of mystery in an artist that has everybody intrigued, where the thin line of genius and insanity is so razor sharp thin.

Now obviously since I’m not doing a review on an album but instead an entire soundcloud page this is going to be different than most reviews. I’ll mainly just be using songs to illustrate my point.

So let’s begin with weeoweeoweeo first off the name should kind of give you a hint as to what artist he is. Nobody who is trying to “make it” in the conventional sense would ever name their song weeoweeoweeo, unless there is some untapped market of people looking up nonsense song titles. Secondly one of the really interesting parts of YUNG CHUCK is that he will establish such great ideas, only to abandon it, destroy it, or let it devolve into gibberish.

Which is so refreshing to hear. As I’ve said before, yeah sincerity is a great thing to have in music. But if we look to the Kurt Cobain’s, Tupac’s, Jimi Hendrix’s, Jim Morrison’s we’re only going to kill ourselves or get killed. When an artist takes something so personal, and individualistic as music and completely makes a joke out of it, you’re either going to be pissed or laughing your ass off by the sheer audacity of it.

So to begin with this track begins with weeoweeoweeo and then there’s this vicious synth, and these edgy lyrics which you will hear so often on cloudrap. Then he raps about his nipples. It’s at this point where if you don’t get what he’s doing then please invest in my magical healing crystals on Ebay I really really need the cash.

Now the beginning of that song is so well executed (besides the weeoweeoweeo). It sounds so much like that edgelord cloudrap that you hear all the time. That YUNG CHUCK really shows his hand that he is more talented than you would be led to believe. In fact I would place money that he could easily make that kind of edgelord trap music, but the fact he abandons it so easily kind of shows the fragility of that particular music genre.

Nearly every aspect of this song, and nearly every aspect of every other song he does is almost a commentary of the state of underground music. Where anime samples are overused to death, males bragging about some false sense of machismo, edgelords being edgelords, etc. Because as soundcloud artists would like you to believe they’re popping Xanax, shooting cops, and catching up on the latest episode of My Hero Academia. It’s all nonsense, nothing on the internet is real, and yet people will still slop this shit up. Which is why in those song in particular I love the Jimmy Neutron Carl sample, almost so anti everything that soundcloud rap is, that is in and of itself is hilarious.

Now if you don’t believe me that YUNG CHUCK isn’t a talented producer then listen to Harvey Bean (beat)  which sounds so amazing. It’s the kind of song you want experimental hip hop to sound like. The song borders on being a cacophony of noise yet at the same time being so incredibly harmonious. It’s this kind of song where you see what YUNG CHUCK would be if he wasn’t poking fun at soundcloud, or just having fun on soundcloud (I have no idea what his motivations are.) Whether it’s crafted on a DAW or he uses samples, the point remains that it sounds amazing.

The same principle can apply to Achieve Nirvana which has this amazing rock track. Whether it’s sampled, or handmade is irrelevant. Since the does such a great job of switching between genres, beats, vibes, etc. And it all sounds amazing.

Which brings me to my next point. Remember when I wrote that article about Cringe? In that article I wrote that artists will purposefully sound mediocre, and goosestep in line because they’re so afraid that people will ridicule their music. Which is something so incredibly annoying, and draining to music as a whole. Yet YUNG CHUCK is probably the most fearless person I’ve ever seen online in my entire life.

I can’t tell you how many artists I’ve seen take professional headshots, go to photoshoots, pay people money to get “Professional” music videos, and all of it to look “legitimate.” Then there’s YUNG CHUCK in a school girl outfit. Which I love so much. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing someone dump a bucket of ice cold water on a party. Especially when everybody takes themselves so seriously.

Yet what’s truly ironic is that YUNG CHUCK is succeeding more than these wannabe “Professionals.” Why? Well, if you’re in a creative field and you want to be successful, then why don’t you–I dunno–BE CREATIVE!

So with everything his image, to the music he makes, the bizarre lyrics, to the absurd samples. Everything is just a breath of wild and crazy air. That you cannot help but enjoy. And if you don’t enjoy it, then you don’t get it, and you’ll need to reread this whole entire article all over again.

With his unique approach to music, his image, and everything else. I can’t help but give this guy my recc. Check him out, and hopefully you’ll get as much joy out of him as I did.

Rat Riley: TrapTronic – EP (Disc 1)

 

 

Do you remember that one kickback you went to? The one where everybody was having  a great time, you met a cute girl, and you escaped the party to talk about life? You shared your life stories committing seppuku and spilling your guts to each other.

This album brings back those nostalgic call backs to youth. Back when everything seemed so much more fun. Weed wasn’t boring yet, girls didn’t lose their luster, and the responsibilities of adulthood seemed so far away.

This album is really beautiful from the track Morning After although seems to be about hangovers, they’re the type of hangovers that are still fun. The kind that drinking a gatorade and popping an advil will cure, and that really is 100% worth it since the night before was so fun.

TrapTronic the piano that creates this whirlwind of butterflies in the stomach, and the distorted vocals piercing through as though your heart is beating through your chest. As you finally realize that you’re attracted to the girl you’re talking to and not only that–she’s attracted to you as well.

Full Moon with it’s vocal samples is a much more sensual song. It’s not the three pump dump kind of deal I’m talking about either. This song oozes with sexuality, the type of sex that lasts long, feels great, and makes you feel like a champion. The only problem with the track is that minor sample with the crow caw. Yet it still fits with the song, I’m just off the deep end on how this album made me feel. Personal interpretation and all that jazz.

Forlorn with it’s synthesized keys sounds very similar to TrapTronic, yet with the occasional echoed synth creates a feeling of anxiety. The encroachment of adulthood. The realization that all of those things in the past, are becoming that–in the past.

Traptronic – EP Disc (1) is one of those rare trap albums that’s not some guy plucking away on a DAW making cacophonous sounds that doesn’t even really sound like music. It’s wonderfully made, and creates a whirlwind of emotion. My interpretation, is just that–my interpretation. The feelings and emotion still remain to anybody who takes a listen. Whether it calls you back to your favorite book you read on a rainy day, to staying up all night playing video games with your bros, or even “Passing the herbs” –it captures the youth and nostalgia that’s now in the past.

So with review I give this album my recc.

 

St. Wave: Troposphere

 

 

 

So from thesis of the album “Telling a story of moral conflict within a mind of an introvert, striving to be a better individual. From one Millennial to another.” The album already has grandiose claims.

What I mean by grandiose is that every single person in America has become an armchair psychologist for millennials. That the reason for our lack of agency, histrionics, or whatever; is the result of trophies for everyone, being taught that we were all special snowflakes, etc. You get the picture. You’ve heard it before.

St. Wave with his unique lyricism paints us a portrait that most pundits, armchair psychologists, simply just can’t grasp.

The music in Troposphere Vol. 1 has this melancholy atmosphere that seeps through every sound. It’s a melancholy that can only be expressed by someone that has experienced what life has to offer–which isn’t much.

St. Wave with his introversion is very introspective, and as a result very insightful. He’s not like the typical rapper who boasts of his success, lectures others, and tells the classic from drug dealer to mogul story.

St. Wave isn’t like that, he’s somebody who strives for higher heights, who knows he deserves better, no song better encapsulates this than Troposphere, yet we “We walk alone in this day and age, a generation misunderstood.”

The paths to success or even to start a family, something that all previous generations had so easily been to obtain, seems to allude us. We aren’t able to go work for a high paying job straight out of high school, we aren’t able to get a degree and get the career we want, we aren’t able to do these things. So what else is there to do but to indulge in hedonism. We have no future– so why not smoke weed, drink, and hook up with chicks?

Yet St. Wave wants a better life. He wants to be a better man and LiVE EVIL–my personal favorite track on this album–encapsulates the inner turmoil that an average millennial faces from social pressures, giving into temptation, giving into sin, resulting in the self defeating chorus of “I give in everytime.”

I’ll paraphrase C.S. Lewis–because St. Wave has a soul unlike most contemporary artists–that everybody on earth always feels like there’s something missing. Because we have souls we always feel like we’re missing out on a grand adventure; that we all want to get on, but somehow can’t. As a result our lives feel empty, physical pleasures lose their allure, we become alienated from one another, and even love as St. Wave on Wine puts it “Doesn’t feel enough.”

Millennials with all of our drugs, instant gratification, materialism, hook ups, and everything else still can’t find the thing that we yearn for. What that is–alludes us. But the diagnosis the symptoms of the disease of the soul we have is no where better laid out than by St. Wave’s Troposphere Vol. 1.

I give this album my recc.

 

 

Phosfiend: Guilty Machines

 

 

Thank God there’s still originality in rap. Since it’s formation it’s always been highly contentious. Soul Train host Don Cornelius didn’t even regard it as a respectable form of art.

These days, it can be difficult to argue against that point. With thotcore and mumblecore dominating the scene, hiphop can seem to be leading the race to the bottom of the barrel, but that’s really an unfair and frankly ignorant stance to take.

Right off the bat, Phosfiend’s voice stands out as excellent. At first it seems like the type of voice that would fit perfectly in a metal band, so to hear that voice dedicated to rapping is a welcome juxtaposition. His unique vocal style give his songs an almost operatic tone.

The music varies wildly from a moog synthesizer, to heavy or reverbed out guitars, to bizarre sounding sitars. Everything is experimental, yet familiar.

The best way to describe his music that it is the 00’s sound. Not the mainstream sound that we remember, but the sound that we will nostalgically recall.

For example, everybody says that synthwave is the recreation of 80’s music. It’s not. It’s the nostalgic recreation of the ideal 80’s music, of those B movies that always promised a terrible, scary monster, accompanied by that infamous arpeggiated synth, but just delivered a guy in a rubber suit and overused stock music.

Phosfiend does that with the 00’s music; reconstructs the ideal, not the actual. For example, those rock-sounding vocals and the heavy guitars in Mad God seem like they could fit with any nu metal band of the 00’s–except that they wouldn’t. Nu metal offered a fusion of hip hop and heavy metal, but ultimately ended in a cringe-fest. Phosfiend– very much like synthwave–nostalgically recreates and delivers on the promises of the that scene, giving his listeners something they can’t help but feel they’ve been waiting for.

From the emo guitar in 2 Woke 2 Cope, to the lyrics of Guilty Machines discussing theology, every song is a fulfillment of what was 00’s aggressive music promised but never delivered.

When I think of that time I’ll always remember playing MK4 with friends late at night and listening to Papa Roach. Mad God (my favorite track on the album) seems to amalgamate these various sounds and invokes those feelings of nostalgia in a way that a lot of pop music can’t. It’s a sound that only somebody who lived and breathed in this century’s first decade can understand. It’s not something a studio hit-maker can produce on a whim. An excellent album worth checking out. I give it my recc