Smokepurpp's collaborative mixtape with producer Murda Beatz, Bless Yo Trap, was released on April 13, 2018 (along with a “deluxe-edition” that followed the next week).
The Miami-based Smokepurpp (Omar Piniero, born 1997) first grew to fame a few years ago after a couple SoundCloud singles (most notably “Audi.” which later featured on his 2017 debut mixtape Deadstar) went viral. He is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of the hip-hop subgenre “SoundCloud rap” (hybrid of trap rap, mumble rap, and more) along with other rising rappers like Lil Pump, Ski Mask the Slump God, Trippie Redd, and the late Lil Peep and XXXTentacion.
His co-star, the Canadian Murda Beatz (Shane Lindstrom, born 1994), has become a prolific trap beat producer over the years through his networking skills, collaborating with big names like Drake, Migos, Travis Scott, and others. He also has some of the best producer tags in the game (see: "Murda on the beat so it's not nice" and "I ain't really finna tell y'all how to get away with murder and shit").
Murda Beatz's sound is trademarked by booming, powerful bass (and for a SoundCloud type beat, emblematically distorted (similar to other big names like Ronny J)). His ingenuity is emblazoned with Purpp, whose fondness for instrumentals studded with “the weirdest sounds” and “random industrial shit” allowed Murda to experiment with unique samples and drum patterns on this mixtape.
While Deadstar spawned some of, probably, Purpp’s best tracks - “Drop”, “Audi.”, “Fingers Blue” - it was a sonic mess, all bass and no base. Bless is significantly more dense – 10 tracks versus 18 – and has much less filler, but it still runs into some of the same problems.
It is easy to mentally check yourself out from the entire SoundCloud era-spawned rap canon when you hear a hook like “Aye, I smoke big dope / I smoke big dope / I smoke big dope (yuh)” (“Big Dope”). A closer look reveals Purpp fighting against the constraints of sophistication with purpose, however; in an interview with Noisey Radio back in 2017, he flaunts his status as a leader of the “ignorant” rap movement.
His fans – the male, age 14-21 demographic – live for these catchy, simplistic verses that “go hard” and represent the Post-Millennial, Instagram-is-life, instant gratification, “fuck school, fuck institutions, I just want clout and head” aesthetic. An overtly dumbed-down hook, an unrelenting spew of expensive car/clothing and drug references, and an anthemic disregard for the rights and feelings of women, and you have the average Smokepurpp (or any up-tempo SoundCloud rapper) banger.
While it may seem like Purpp is getting too much credit, his formula is effective; it is easy to compare Purpp’s lyrics to those of a big hitter like Kendrick Lamar – whose lyrics function better both sonically and ethically – and then feel disdain towards Purpp, but it is not necessarily a fair comparison. They are hitting to different fields.
Purpp, along with other up-tempo SoundCloud/ignorant era rappers, writes his lyrics based on overall Club Banger Potential; he is liberating in his ignorance, targeting the come-up (thus, played in a club as a tune to get people hyped) of drugs and alcohol, and the feeling of being on top of what is a world in which you have no control. No control over, for example, things like destiny (the formulaic American ‘high school, college, job’ progression) and relationships (the now Instagram and Snapchat-dominated romantic world ruled by increasingly harder to understand social codes and semantics).
So, Purpp’s writing is almost as effective as it can be in appealing to his people. In fact, there’s almost a sense of reverse-pretention; instead of penning showy, big words that would restrict uneducated listeners from comprehension, Purpp’s lyrics are riddled with a so-dumbed-down colloquial lexicon that any non-trap fan, general music listener would not be able to understand much of what he raps about. Lines like “Look at my neck and it’s snowin’” (“Pockets”) would puzzle anyone who does not know that “snowin’” is short for “owning expensive jewelry.” And while it is not fair to give Purpp any creator credit for employing this abbreviated afro/gangsta/trapper style of writing that belongs to all those who came before him (and acknowledging that these types of songs can still appeal to the vast public, see: "Gucci Gang" or "Bad and Boujee"), it is evident that he has mastered the art of using simple, hype buzzwords (“Big Dope”, “Audi.”, “Drop”) to an exceptional, ignorant-hype effect.
This is not to say that there are no lyrical highlights on Bless – Purpp pulls out the thesaurus on “Good Habits” for “Your bitch tryna find the circumference / And I got hoes in abundance”. Another interesting textual tidbit is Purpp’s affection for school-referencing bars like “She take the dick like an assignment” and “Keep a dirty Glock in my Jansport” (Jansport being the popular middle school/high school backpack). Perhaps this comes from the 21 year-old Purpp feeling like he is still in high school, as he dropped out years ago… to pursue rapping.
Despite some good lyrical moments on Bless, Smokepurpp’s bars are pretty much interchangeable with almost any other up-tempo SoundCloud rapper. What makes Bless Yo Trap work is the mood – brought on both by Purpp’s vocal style and Murda Beatz’s sinister soundscape.
On the title track “123”, for example, Murda’s drums are organized purposefully “offset” (percussion and hi-hats displaced) which would sound weird isolated but gives the track, when combined with Purpp’s aggressive flow and paranoia-addled ad-libs, a unique, on-edge feel. While most of the tracks could be played in a club to a mosh-pit-effect, some of the especially hard highlights include “Do Not Disturb” (featuring fellow trappers Lil Yachty and Migos’s Offset) and “Pray” (featuring A$AP Ferg). The former is unrelenting in its sense of doom, with a melody that feels like a heart pulsing with paranoia. The latter sounds like a sonic representation of a jailbreak – highlighted by a catchy Ferg hook with a vibe probably inspired by his Plain Jane hit.
Another one of my favorites off the mixtape was the interlude-length “Good Habits”, which includes some excellent industrial-flavored, clanging-metal synths.
Beyond the bangers are some slight reprieves where both Purpp and Murda ditch their almost overbearing flare for sonic devastation for some lighter hype tunes; while the lyrical content remains consistently ignorant (“Pockets”: “I wanna fuck but she boring (huh) / Fuck a friend, money important”), Murda’s bass is less aggressive and Purpp’s tone is less hostile, with Purpp even donning a sing-songy voice heavily autotuned. The autotune aesthetic is used at its best in “Bumblebee”, which could (and should) be categorized as a cloud rap track, sharing clear sonic similarities with the likes of Bladee.
Besides the aforementioned tracks, everything else is pretty drab. It runs into the same problems as Deadstar in that there is no theme or cohesive structure to the album – no exposition, no climax, no resolution – and so after you listen to it, it is hard to pick apart what you liked versus what you did not like, besides the few standout tracks.
While Bless fares better in this regard than Deadstar due to its shrunken track list, that in itself is more of a copout than a praiseworthy musical decision; the best tracks on Bless are not necessarily better than the best tracks on Deadstar, they just have less filler in between them. And with Purpp’s tracks always so short (usually 2-3 minutes, another staple of the SoundCloud style), there is not that much to enjoy. Especially towards the end of the album (after “Bumblebee”), the production gets lazier and Purpp provides nothing interesting, vocally, to shake off the monotony.
Smokepurpp and Murda Beatz’s Bless Yo Trap may not reveal any artistic progression (since Deadstar), but it does have some memorable, playlist-worthy tracks for those who enjoy the mindless hype style of ignorant rap, and presents a good case to be on-the-lookout for Murda Beatz’s future production.
TOP: “Big Dope”, “Do Not Disturb”, “Good Habits”, “Pray”, “Bumblebee”
BOTTOM: “Mayo”, “Ways”, “For The Gang”