Who said production is what makes or break hip hop these days. For YG’s newest project, he brings outlandish vocals again and again for a record that never lets you even think about the backing tracks on it. Though much of its production is fairly boring, YG compensates and then some for it.
Don’t let the somewhat predictable backtracking of “10 Times” fool you, there’s an absolutely fierce vocal performance and message lying underneath that surface. As the religious overtones flow right into “Bulletproof” things quickly take a more psychedelic and bass-driven tone with Jay 305 offering even more unique vocal delivery. Getting into a track like “Handgun” however, there’s just not enough raspy or bizarre vocal work to make the track stand out. Though it’s more theatrical interludes, and poetry for that matter, actually is more intriguing than the music itself.
While you’ll definitely recognize the underlying track of “Suu Whoop” the boisterous lyricism and vocal affectations from YG makes it all too fun. Mixing his money-talk with call-outs to Canada, “Can’t Get In Kanada” is a totally enveloping listen thanks to its fast verse-spitting and shouts. Equally, the handfuls of mainstream hip hop tropes across “Too Cocky” makes its subversion of Right Said Fred’s hit so fun, and all the wordplay is too hilarious to ignore.
With everyone trading verses on “Big Bank” we start to see how vocally-powered this record is as you quickly realize yes, the backing tracks are often forgettable but everyone is so braggadocios you won’t care. This said “Power” is one of the rare times where the loud bass and powerful synths let Ty Dolla $ign’s vocals feel even more fun. Though it brings in many vintage samples to elevate its fun delivery, “Slay” falls into some of the more boring ends of the record, and even Quavo’s lines can’t save it.
“666” ends up feeling the same as “Slay” while its dark story offers listeners something to hold onto. “Too Brazy” however goes all out as YG and Mozzy have a conversation with wacky rhythms and comical but apt pop culture comparisons. One of the rare cases of quirky writing and rapping comes on “Pussy Money Fame” where a modern take on vintage hooks seems to reflect on the universal draws of the hip hop life. This continues on the watery sound of “Deeper Than Rap” where YG basically narrates his life to show why it’s not as easy as other music careers. After the heartbreaking prison phone call on “Free The Homies,” YG takes thing out on the downbeat and soulful guitars of “Bomptown Finest” to close the record on one of his most tender ballads.
Words by Owen Maxwell