Pusha-T: DAYTONA

For approximately 3 months in 9th grade, I thought Pusha-T’s voice belonged to Cyhi Da Prynce. In my defense, I had just started seriously listening to music and they were almost always on GOOD Friday singles together. Once I cleared up the case of mistaken identity, I was hooked on Terrence Thornton. Here’s a brief summary of what he’s been up to since then:
Fear of God sucked so bad we collectively repressed the memory of “Touch It”, but Part II was a great record that answered the question of whether Pusha-T could survive in a rap ecosystem a decade removed from Clipse’s debut album. Wrath of Caine took a darker approach, with a sonic template indebted to a young Travi$ $cott and the drill movement. 2013’s My Name Is My Name pushed that envelope further, the beats starker and weirder, the rapping somehow even sharper and more vicious. Darkest Before Dawn, the nominal prelude to King Push, took the darker tone of MNIMN further, cutting the radio friendly guest features of his first two solo albums in favor of a more insular approach.
And now we’re here: DAYTONA, a 7 track EP being billed as an album, solely produced by Kanye West himself. A lot has changed since Pusha first signed to GOOD Music, but he remains a committed stoic, a cocaine-dealing superhero, more myth than man. But stoicism by any other name is stagnancy, and the cracks in Pusha’s armor have never been more apparent.
When it comes to subject matter, DAYTONA breaks no new ground, but no one came to a Pusha record for anything else. But have his drug talk and luxury boasts ever sounded so uninspired? Dated references to Pink Floyd, Raekwon, and Al Roker bring to mind classic tweets about generational divides. And while Pusha has never tried branding himself as “woke,” hearing him say “I won’t let you ruin my dreams or Harvey Weinstein the kid / Good morning, Matt Lauer, can I live?” on “Hard Piano” is jarring and gross. And Pusha’s propensity for weak and/or maudlin hooks hasn’t changed; “Hard Piano” and “Santeria” come bearing egregiously awkward choruses, while “Games We Play” and “What Would Meek Do?” only avoid such mishaps by paring hooks down to a single line or bar.
And on the topic of stagnancy and cracked armor, executive producer Mr. West does not acquit himself well. The inverted-”Bound 2” structure of “Come Back Baby” is gnarly and inspired, and both “Santeria” and “What Would Meek Do?” carry the atmosphere of a certain Elm Street. But the remaining tracks carry little charm or menace; they scan as tired retreads of his early work, before he was the first rapper with a Benz and a backpack. “Games We Play” is the only nostalgia play that works, anchored by a dusty, loping piano line, horn stabs and an earworm of a guitar riff.
The features are fine, unlikely to make you feel any type of way. Rick Ross’s verse holds no new surprises, save that Ross is, for some reason, still rapping? Kanye continues doubling down on his beloved MAGA hat; to answer his questions, no, he isn’t too complex for ComplexCon, what 2Pac wouldn’t do is endorse Donald Trump, and who wants to know what a seven pill night feels like anyway? Continuing an annoying trend from “Ye vs. The People,” he ends the verse with a 4th-wall break; never before has Mr. West been so desperate for public validation, and so unlikely to receive it.
Ultimately the only thing surprising about DAYTONA is the thing I least expected: the spark is gone. Whatever made Pusha-T rap with demented glee alongside Tyler, the Creator, the disdain he had for your lesser luxuries, none of it is present. What’s left is some shit for the old heads. I hope Joe Budden enjoyed it.

KROZER – EP

It’s 2018 so if you’re going to make guitar music, it had better be good. Thankfully, KROZER’s creatively-titled “EP” is just that, full of brash guitar riffs and distorted vocals. The best thing about this EP is how much it jams: the type of music you would actually be willing to mosh to in a musty basement with a bunch of overactive white kids. To be frank, I have no idea what they’re saying half the time on this record, but I kind of love that too.

Opener “STRANGERS” is a headfake, clear, serene strumming giving way to a cacophony of guitars and drums; the brief bass break that opens the second verse highlights the rhythmic bass anchoring the song together. “PINK MATTER” is my personal standout. The opening notes sound like seagulls squawking beachside, before a driving guitar riff takes over, propelling the song forward. The harsh layered strumming over the chorus and ambient screaming noises approximately halfway thru the track emphasize the melody at the core of this EP. And the guitarwork on these songs is just gorgeous.

“BIGSPIN/NO VOX” is the record’s longest track, clocking in at a speedy 3:24 and serving us two songs in that span. “BIGSPIN” boasts the best singing on the record, with a plaintive missive: I could never do the shit you do. By contrast, “NO VOX,” with no vocals, letting the instrumentalists wild out in the best way. There’s a distorted lead guitar low in the mix that I’m going to be thinking about all weekend. Closer “WALK IN COOLER” has the shouted lyrics of pop punk’s heyday married to a grungier aesthetic, ending the record on a high-energy note.

In a streaming era filled with bloated albums designed to maximize revenue and RIAA certifications, it’s refreshing to listen to a record that deals exclusively in brevity; It’ll be interesting to see where KROZER take their sound in the coming year. You can stream the record on bandcamp.

SirDH – steel ep


Article by Chuck Trash

To describe _sirDH, real name Devin Hudson, as a dynamic artist is somewhat of an insult. Molded  between 2015 and 2016, Hudson’s “steel ep” is the type of project that takes several listens to properly dissect. Clocking in at just ten minutes and spread out over four total tracks, Hudson has successfully delivered layers of jarring club music that far surpasses the likes of many reputable artists within the popular sub-genre.

“steel ep” is a quick listen. It isn’t the most accessible club music ever made. At times, it is noisy and relentlessly energetic. To contradict the intense portion of the project, Hudson intertwines a very cohesive ambient soundscape across every track. With this information provided, it needs to be clear that this is a project for fans of deeper listening. As previously stated, _sirDH created this project with sheets of different sounds. In other words, every listen will likely be different than the one previous to it, and so on and so forth.

The EP kicks off with a spacey “Intro” track, which seems to serve the purpose of setting the tone for what the next three songs will sound like. Being that Devin Hudson crafted these tracks over the course of two years, it becomes abundantly clear while listening that he likely has made a plethora of unreleased tracks. It is also likely that among the tracks created since he began developing his sound, Hudson decided that these four tracks fit together well in terms of an actual release—and they really do. As the “Intro” slowly moves away from an array of ambient synth tones, it transforms into a mild blueprint of minimal club music. As the heavy bass drum echoes around the latter half of the “Intro”, both the synth and the kick stop simultaneously while the EP presses on into unpredictable territory.

The second track, “Missing”, is the perfect transition from near silence on the tail end of the “Intro” to where the music picks up again. “Missing” also contains some of the peak moments from the entire EP, as it serves up a versatile dose of countless genres buried within the massive overall scheme of electronic music. While the general melody of the song is enticing and intense, the last minute of the track serves as the highlight of the record. Departing from a more traditional club melody, Hudson evolves the track into a handful of measures of solo synth and then drops a shaking 808 kick behind the droning synth, creating an original sound.

The third track and title track, “Steel”, serves as an excellent follow-up track to “Missing”. While “Steel” doesn’t stray as far away from the traditional club music sound as the last minute and a half of “Missing”, it still stands out as an original and appealing track that once again fits like a puzzle piece to the overall image of what Hudson carves with “steel”.  In terms of spinning these tunes in a public club setting, “Steel” is also the most crowd-accessible track of the four.

The final track, which features the GTW on vocals, is another track that really stands tall both alone and fits in quite well with the songs preceding it. “India Love”, the “steel ep” closer, fades in with a duo of further unique synth patterns and the GTW backing the melody with sporadic but fitting vocals. The hook, which repetitiously states “I wish the world looked like India Love”, is the first piece of supporting evidence that Hudson has created a project clouded by optimism during a turbulent time for everyone in the world.

Unlike so much club music that comes out, this final song solidifies the fact that this is actually an uplifting project if anything. “Dark” or “ominous” music has all but flooded a large percentage of modern music–and there is literally nothing wrong with that. Club music specifically can be interpreted as a dark genre because of how intense the melodies are and how much eccentric and fast-paced energy carries through so many projects. While “steel ep” doesn’t stray so far away from club music that it becomes unrecognizable, it does do a fantastic job deceiving the listener that it is actually an upbeat project in the end, and that in itself makes this EP both original and unique.

Joseph Chilliams – Henry Church


Article by Chuck Trash

Joseph Chilliams has had an important past year. The Chicago rapper’s career beginnings can be traced to two significant features; the first on Saba’s “Westside Bound 3” and the second appearing on Noname’s “Forever” alongside Ravyn Lenae. Although he was not the primary artist on either of these tracks, the two verses he delivered were enough to create a local buzz around the Pivot Gang co-founder. For lack of a better word, these features were truly a pivotal moment in his career. Not only did he steal the show from two well-established local artist, he also made his mark on one of the most sought after sub-cultures in the world right now; Chicago rap. While Chilliams has honed in on his voice as an artist over the past year, he also is one of the only rappers in the highly regarded Chicago rap community who was able to build anticipation for his debut album before releasing almost any work at all.

Going on tour with his brother and fellow Pivot Gang co-founder Saba helped spread both of their names across the country, further proving that right now, Chicago is the most artistically diverse city in the country. If Chance the Rapper has painted a vivid and positive depiction of the south side of Chicago through his music, Chilliams and Saba have done the equivalent, but with the city’s west side. “Henry Church”, Joseph Chilliams debut full-length release is no exception. Riddled with a combination of references to various parts of the city and Joseph’s own personality and original persona, Chilliams successfully delivers a project that is light-hearted and fun to listen to, but also thought provoking and well-written.

Perhaps the most important driving force behind this record is the constant reminder of nostalgia and the importance of the weight memories carry in all of our lives. Whether brought about by Chilliams own personal experiences or pulled from an endless list of pop culture references, it seems like Joseph is almost blatantly reminding his audience that the good in life will not be eclipsed by the dismal realities of the present. Aside from acknowledging the recent death of Pivot Gang co-found John Walt, there is almost no presence of sadness on any of the record. Even when addressing Walt’s sudden and extremely tragic death, there is an air of hope and positivity echoed in Chilliam’s tone. All in all, “Henry Church” serves as a rather appropriate name for the album—not because it contains religious undertones, as it does not at all–but because “Henry Church” has an uplifting aura to it from the beginning.

It would be hard to argue with the fact that Chilliams is a fantastic wordsmith. His delivery is unique and his lyrics are the kind that force the listener to digest multiple times before fully understanding everything that he is saying. On album opener “Fergie”, Chilliams samples Fergie’s 2006 smash hit “Fergilicious”. Even as he borrow’s the chorus from the decade-old pop song, he has a way of owning his identity through the “Fergilicious” mantra he repeats throughout the chorus.

On tracks like “Kale”, which features Noname & Super Bwe, Chilliams continues to reveal pertinent information about his identity through slick wordplay and lyrics that are even funny at times. The one thing that this album lacks which so many modern rap records reek of is a sense of superficiality, which obviously works in Joseph’s favor. Not only is he able to portray Chicago in a brighter light, he also shamelessly presents every angle of his identity and personality to his audience. By the time the album is finished, it could be argued that Chilliams has done more than create a great Chicago rap record. It is overwhelmingly clear that he has done just that, but at the same time, his persona is so welcoming that it almost feels like he is hanging out while the album is playing.

While Pivot Gang may not have the nation-wide recognition that they deserve, it is very likely that the crew’s fanbase will only expand from here. After Saba released his “Bucket List Project” last year, it became apparent that these guys are not messing around. With the release of “Henry Church”, Joseph Chilliams has only further proven that the Pivot Gang brand is one composed of hope, love and happiness, even with a crazy world spinning around us.

KC Ortiz – Church Tapes


Article by Chuck Trash

KC Ortiz is truly an anomaly. At this point, two mixtapes deep, it would be a major understatement to say that she is worthy of blowing up. Since she made her full-length debut last year with “Beach Street”, the conversation on her success level really ends with when, not how, she will breakthrough to the mainstream appeal. On her new “Church Tapes” mixtape, she begins to reveal information regarding her religious background and upbringing, while continuing to own her identity as a powerful figure in the trans-community. Two topics that are typically controversially contradictory fuse together to become one inspirational underlying theme; this is KC Ortiz at her best, and she has shown no sign of stopping anytime soon.

While drawing obvious inspiration from a handful of very famous New York MCs such as Lil’ Kim & Notorious B.I.G, KC maintains to bring a flavor of originality to every bar she spits. One of the main factors that continues to compliment Ortiz’ delivery as a flow that truly belongs to her is the ever-slapping beat selection heard across her entire catalog. It’s refreshing to hear someone so lyrically capable finesse their talent over beats that can be approached an endless number of ways. While her message echoes positivity and optimism throughout every track on “Church Tapes”, she always steps to each verse with a fierce vocal pattern, once again contributing to the overall success of this project. It is rare to hear an album with no filler tracks these days, and although it only clocks in at around 25 mins, “Church Tapes” functions as a project that leaves very little room for skipping even a portion of one of its’ seven main tracks.

Even after cementing her presence in music as a one-of-a-kind innovator, Ortiz has continued to push boundaries on this record.  While “Beach Street” stands out as a versatile, staple 2016 party mixtape, it does lack the underlying themes that are frequently touched upon throughout the beginning of “Church Tapes”. The religious content that blatantly drives the first few songs isn’t necessarily the first time KC has shown her audience a religious side. At various points on “Beach Street”, we are given the notion that Ortiz has always been religious. Through “Church Tapes”, Ortiz continues to reveal personal information on her morals and values. We learn how her identity has coincided with her religious beliefs, and how the two polar opposites are actually not so different and have worked together in creating the person who is KC Ortiz. Although she is more outwardly religious on this record, her beliefs are always smart, open-minded and self-reflective, and never pushed down the listeners throat.

In terms of lyrical context, Ortiz is far more topically versatile on her latest project than on “Beach Street”. Throughout the course of the second track, “Know It”, Ortiz wrestles with her materialistic desires, homophobia and religion all at the same time.  On paper, this seems like a recipe for disaster, but KC manages to turn any notion of negativity into a message of hope, vocally overcoming life’s obstacles across this record. Pushing the idea of overcoming even further, on tracks like “Future”, she repetitively serves up the mantra of “We are the future”, creating an aura of optimistically inevitable acceptance for every identity down the line.

On the final two tracks of the project, “Best Friends Sweater” & “Bitch Pudding”, Ortiz embraces her wild side, rapping as raw and uncut as ever about sex—pairing either of the tracks perfectly with almost any party. The aforementioned combination of more modern beats with her signature approach to said beats works wonders on these two tracks. For example, by rapping malicious sixteens over a beat that is driven by a high pitched vocal command on “Bitch Pudding”, she actually takes full control of the track.

At times, the beats she has chosen for this particular tape work well as standalone club tracks, potentially landing even without her raps on them. The fact that she takes the attention away from any instrumental she raps on and places it back on herself speaks volumes about her ability as a rapper, and even more so about her dominating persona as an artist. At the end of the day, she has truly embodied the classic idea of an ‘MC’—whether those letters translate into KC ‘moving the crowd’ or flaunting her unique creativity as a ‘microphone controller’.

Seer – Secret 2 My Strut

SEER’s voice is undeniably unique. I’m not sure exactly what it is about it, but I dig it. The drums and synths create an equally interesting backbeat to SEER’s vocals in Secret 2 My Strut. Even though this track is technically more of a hip-hop song, there’s some slacker rock, Mac DeMarco sounding vibe that’s creeping in as well. Chill out with SEER and bump this track.

Ash Riser – Ghosts

I could go on and on about Ash Riser, his LP Ghosts, his rebirth as an artist, yadda yadda yadda, but I’m gonna let the music speak for itself. Easily one of the best hip hop albums of 2017 thus far, and tbh, just one of the best albums in general to come from this year. Stream it, buy it, tell your friends about it. Seriously, Ghosts is one of the most interesting and inspiring projects I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year, and my attempt to describe it won’t do it justice—Ash Riser is doing some visionary shit.

Bok Bok – Salvage 2017

In his first solo EP since Your Charizmatic Self, Night Slugs founder Bok Bok’s Salvage 2017 is a coolly-refreshing oasis in a desert full of listless attempts at contemplative club music. After exploring a variety of sonic terrain in polished gems such as “Melba’s Call,” as well as an absolutely wild J. Hus remix, the Briton producer swings things back towards a heavy grime influence—but not the commercialized grime sounds that have permeated Americanized club music of late. Rather, he amplifies the grit in plodding, persistent bass to complement the dreary, dark wobble of synths that infused London’s early dubstep scene a decade ago. “Know Already” and “Salvage Lurkin” are the most traditionally grime-oriented of the bunch; however, the stuttering melody and reggaeton-tinged rhythms of “Island Hopping” bring AJ Tracey’s “Wifey Riddim” to mind.

Bok Bok’s work is always excellent, but when I heard a new EP was on the way, I wondered how it would stack up to the now-classic Your Charizmatic Self. Thankfully, he didn’t disappoint—each song on Salvage 2017 is daringly expansive in scope, begging to swallow up a packed club in enticing riddims and pulsating vibrations. Experimentation pays off for Bok Bok, making Salvage 2017 one of his better releases to date.

Salvage 2017 is available to stream on Spotify.

Epsom – Vulture Talk

Article by Chuck Trash

When creative pioneers first introduced the synthesizer to the world of popular music, the entire idea of the sound they were creating was heavily rooted in strict compositions, not totally unlike minimal classical music. The idea of having to be musically trained in order to create any type of music has long since been abandoned with so many improvements in the world of technology. Although the world of electronic music has been flooded with cliché melodies and over the top live performances, there are still a handful of extremely talented artists who still make music with the intention that people will pay close attention and fully appreciate the full scope and nuances of the product.

Epsom, a Los Angeles based electronic artist, has undoubtedly mastered the fusing of minimal classical compositions with the sounds of a hard-hitting synthesizer. On his new LP, “Vulture Talk”, Epsom is breaking down all sorts of musical boundaries, creating an atmosphere that is necessary to experience multiple times in order to recognize the enormous weight and depth of this project. At times, these complex and wonderfully written compositions are lined with minimal drums, but never to an inappropriate or unnecessary extent. The drumming instead creates a proper companion to his electric soundscapes. There are heavy echoes of classic drum n’ bass drum patterns across some of the tracks on this record, further adding to the assumption that Epsom has likely studied music in depth and is utilizing his knowledge of the past to create a modern amalgamation of a variety of genres.

On one of the stand out tracks, “Ferragamo,”  Epsom toys with his MIDI, creating a surface melody that sounds like a successful drum n’ bass banger. In a matter of seconds, he fades out the lead synth and drum track into a captivating but minimal synth progression, one that sounds as though it was pulled from an early 2000’s video game soundtrack. Towards the end of the track, he really brings both sides of the possibility spectrum full circle, transitioning into an exhilarating and fast-paced finale with harsh, somewhat ambient noise. The song last about four minutes or so and it pairs well with the way the album begins. The project wouldn’t quite have the same effect without the subtle melody changes near the halfway marks.

At times, Epsom sounds as though he was heavily influenced by another Los Angeles great, Flying Lotus. To build on those early Flylo “Los Angeles/1983” roots, there are portions of this record that sound like they wouldn’t exist without significant electronic pieces by German groups like NEU! & Kraftwerk. Blank Body’s influence cannot be taken for granted either. The project is really complex, and more than anything, it positively reinforces one of the more artistic directions that electronic music has taken over the past four or five decades. Not only is Epsom making catchy, smart and puzzling pieces of work, he’s talented and not afraid to utilize that talent in his music.

Smino – blkswn

Article by Chuck Trash

It can’t be easy being Smino. He first hailed from the St. Louis and moved to Chicago a few years ago to pursue a rap career in what was quickly becoming a hot bed for new music, especially rap and R&B. In almost no time at all, his Zero Fatigue crew started picking up some serious recognition, complete with a feature in Pitchfork’s rising artist series. Keep in mind, all of this hype surrounding his fresh career was based off only a few massive singles, a smattering of EPs, and a couple of feature verses like the one on Noname’s “Shadow Man”. With all of that pressure, it must have been tough to finally release a full-length LP, especially one that spans over 18 tracks and clocks in at just over one hour in length.

Smino turned all of this pressure into musical gems, creating one of the most exciting local record debuts in years. It will likely go down in the history books with projects such as Noname’s “Telefone”, Mick Jenkin’s “The Water[s]”, and  Chance’s “Acid Rap” though he is a St. Louis rapper through-and-through. Smino completely exceeded the expectations of me and many other hack music journalists, it’s amazing. In creating a completely unique sound and then shaping, wielding, and progressing that signature drawl on every track, Smino and his team, have turned each song into a unique listening experience. With this nearly flawless LP, he has delivered an extremely cohesive debut project, despite the fact that each track sounds completely different. The album has great sense of movement, in the literary world it would be considered a page-turner. 

The first thing to keep in mind about this record is that it is long. Although there is an overwhelming  amount of content to digest, take note that every song is jam-packed with substance. Being that there is so much going on throughout this record, it is going to take even the most experienced listener at least several listens to fully appreciate everything going on here. Not unlike some of the current kings of rap, i.e. Kendrick Lamar, Smino has a way with words that truly astounds listeners. Most of the punchlines heard on these tracks are worth rewinding, as they actually push beyond the clever double entendre into many-layered realms of meaning.

Smino has an endless supply of delivery methods, excelling in sing-song formats and in sporadic stanza. Lyrically, the things he says are so nuanced, it’s easy to miss what he says because the non-lyrical aspect of the music is so well-crafted. The production on the record is so consistent to the point that each track flows into the next, creating a ephemeral atmosphere of positive energy behind his effective vocabulary. This is one of those records where it is more difficult to figure out its flaws than it is to point out what the artist did right.

On the final track “Amphetamine” is perhaps some of the strongest work on an already phenomenal record. It begins with Smino questioning his place in life and where his career is headed, it rapidly changes halfway through into a mean lyrical piece, featuring verses from Noname, Zero Fatigue member Bari, and Jean Deaux, all of whom compliment each other generously. This song is not only one of the most ebullient tracks on the project, but also the perfect way to close “blkswn”. It begins with a reflection of Smino’s identity and ends with him flexing with his friends, a beautiful dichotomy. It’s impossible to classify this song as a touch-n-go buddy rap track, or a deeper intellectual rap song—because that’s the thing about Smi, he covers all of the bases.

Buy the album now on iTunes and come see Smino on April 26th at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago.

No My Name Is Jeffery

If you haven’t heard of the Young Thug by now then you have problem. Although he is most known for his controversial style, he’s a talented artist. I was first turned on to Young Thug after giving his album Barter 6 a chance, before that I disliked everything about the 25 year old rapper. In this new album “No My Name Is Jeffery” Young Thug explained that the tracks on the album are named after his idols. The track names include “Guwop” for Gucci Mane, Rihanna, Floyd Mayweather, Kanye West and also the recently killed gorilla Harambe. The top two tracks on the song for me personally are Wyclef Jean and Guwop. The album is not Barter 6 but an extremely good follow up and contains many songs to soundtrack a great evening out. All in all, I can vouch that Young Thug has once again delivered on a project which makes me excited about everything he has in store for his audience in the future.

BROCKHAMPTON – ALL-AMERICAN TRASH

Reviewed by goldsoundz

When Texas rapper Kevin Abstract, fresh off his magnificent debut album MTV1987, announced the he had left loosely-connected rap collective AliveSinceForever, he also declared himself part of a new group, made up of 8 artists (Abstract, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Ameer Vann,  instead of ASF’s 30 plus. The group was called Brockhampton, but Abstract refused to be acknowledged as a rap group; he wanted to be called the very first “All-American Boy Band.” Following a set of singles that combined accessible rap with an experimental edge to the production and song structure, the band delivers their debut mixtape, All American Trash. And boy, it is anything but that.

Given that no song on AAT contains every member of Brockhampton and rarely contains more than two, the listener may expect there to be more of a showcase of group talent than an actual cohesive project. It’s true; each members’ range of influence spreads across multiple genres and eras. Yet each of the 8 members posses the ability to depict a strong sense of melancholy without coming across as corny or sappy, and the similarities in mood, not sound, are what keeps AAT to sounding like a compilation.

That doesn’t stop the tape from giving us a few bangers, as the wonderfully titled “Ben Carson” is “Mr. Me Too” for 2016, and “Flip Mo” sounds straight out of the second side of Danny Brown’s Old. Yet outside of those two, the songs on here aren’t meant to get you hyped up. Not every song here is sad, per se, but every song transmits some type of emotion that isn’t exactly fit for a night out, unless it’s the part of the night out where you’re driving too fast and everything is dark. Sometimes it’s the longing of Kevin Abstract’s solo track “Michigan” & Rodney Tenor’s acoustic effort “Contacts”, the existentialism of “Palace”, or the angst of Matt Champion-Ameer Vann duet “Poison”. All these emotions come together in emotional centrepiece “Cotton Hollow”, a genre-bending, near-perfect pop rap song that undoubtedly ranks among the very best songs of the young year. AAT is emo-rap to the core, a subgenre that has been tried with mixed success (for every Because The Internet, Man on the Moon II, and Take Care, there is a later-period Cudi or any-period KYLE album to match), but this may be the very first step towards the genre becoming a legitimate movement. Or at the least, the possibility of five very good emo rap debut albums coming out in the next year or so.

So yes, AAT is an extremely unique project and one that is in a lane that is currently not occupied now that Gambino is missing, Drake is a big boy, and Cudi has lost his mind. But there are some points onAAT where they can be swallowed by their own influences, especially on “Infatuation” and “No Love Lost”, in which the production pulls so much from Tyler, The Creator’s production style that it becomes distracting. Not that these are terrible songs, but for a group that has shown to have an immense amount of creative talent, it’s a bit disappointing. Yet for a debut tape from a bunch of extremely young artists, the fact that the only true flaw is the occasional blatant influence is truly a testament to how impressive this mixtape is. It’s both a perfect example of each members’ individual talent without being disjointed. It contains new, fresh sounds that are still poppy enough to avoid “experimental” status. It’s a rare mixtape that shows both quality and potential for more. And most of all, it’s a sign that the All-American Boy Band is going to be around for a long, long time.