In a genre where the idea of making anything remotely scientific or formulaic has been almost completely blotted out, Comethazine impressively manages to make an album that is pure formula.
The Illinois-based rapper’s debut LP Bawskee is the latest in an ever-growing stack of rap albums known notoriously as “SoundCloud rap.”
The subgenre is characterized by lo-fi static filters, distorted basslines, aggressive kicks and hats, heavily-syncopated, industrial percussion loops and gritty, belligerent vocal performances. The overarching dogma is do-it-yourself, hence the SoundCloud moniker.
There are other fundamental attributes, like how songs tend to have short lengths (they usually contain two verses at maximum), which plays into two factors: one, these tracks are designed for the Generation Z, post-social media milieu that live for the instant-gratification, soundscape-kaleidoscope that this genre provides, and two, that shorter lengths will lead to more plays on streaming services like Spotify.
Another name for the genre is “ignorant rap,” which stems from the idea that every SoundCloud rapper is proudly ignorant. Big-time SoundCloud breakouts like Lil Pump and Smokepurpp popularized this idea by dumbing down tracks to the maximum: titles like “Gucci Gang,” “Boss,” “Audi.,” “Drop,” “Big Dope,” and other one or two word slogans designed to rile up teens and go wild in clubs. The lyrics don’t expand much on the titles and consist mainly of repeated mantras about getting expensive jewelry, driving fancy cars and hooking up with pretty girls. They are tracks crafted for the sexually-frustrated male teen; angry, misogynistic anthems that seek to challenge our educated society as it stands.
In Bawskee, Comethazine pushes SoundCloud rap to its limits. He delivers nearly twenty overcooked beats in the span of thirty minutes: that equates to an average track length of less than two minutes.
Sadly, most of the vocals and beats are mixed so poorly and distorted so furiously, that even for the most noise-acclimated trap cognoscenti, these songs will hurt your ears.
What’s worse is that Comethazine is late to the SoundCloud rap party, which began booming in 2016. There’s a type of raw, naive energy on Bawskee that makes me think he designed these tracks specifically to work double-time, a desperate attempt to make up for lost time and stand out within an already exploited subgenre. Instead, what results is a batch of beats so saturated with gain effects that it really does feel like they were made in five minutes on GarageBand.
Additionally, Bawskee comes across as almost a blatant bite of Smokepurpp’s celebrated Deadstar, a 2017 LP that contained a similar structure, runtime and style of beats. Oh, and Comethazine sounds a lot like Smokepurpp. It’s that typical drug-addled drone, but even more soulless. Add in that all of Smokepurpp’s albums are tighter and more consistent than Comethazine’s sole entry, and Bawskee really doesn’t look good.
At times, though, Comethazine sounds more like Playboi Carti than Smokepurpp, and that’s a good thing. Carti has consistently proven he’s not only one of the leaders of the trap movement but a unique figure throughout the hip hop sphere, with his iconic drawling flow and his oozy, woozy, Pi’erre Bourne-beats. By biting Carti’s style as well, Comethazine makes a few songs that actually sound decent, like “Walk,” “My Way,” and “Sick Shit.”
The latter track has a fantastic synthline, an electric current that pulses with metallic, acidic dribble. It sounds like the opening to a video game boss battle.
Unfortunately, in this track - and others like “No Discussion,” “If I Got To,” and the atrocious “Piped Up” - the audio channels are mixed together horribly. In “Sick Shit,” the bassline is so bombastic that it’s grating, and the vocals sound like they were processed through Windows Movie Maker.
Comethazine’s best tracks are the ones that get straight to the point, explosive bangers like “V12” and “Let It Eat”. The former is delightfully turbulent, a raucous vocal performance (“Runnin’ from the cops in my V12”) coupled by an excellent instrumental full of unrelenting bass splurges and disorienting siren-like synthesizer patterns. “Let It Eat” is my favorite, an instant drop that grabs you by the ears and harangues you. Ugly God makes an appearance halfway through, providing an excellent twelve-second verse to give the track a unique edge over the other ones.
The three track stretch of “My Way,” “Let It Eat,” and “Sick Shit” is exciting, and if the entire album was like this, Bawskee would be acceptable. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the album is easily forgettable, more SoundCloud detritus to put in the compost bin. The worst part is that it doesn’t seem like Comethazine even gave a full effort on this LP, what with all the mixing deficiencies and vapid lyrical content.
To make matters worse, he’s even got an uncomfortably severe obsession with Demi Lovato, who’s referenced over 40 times and even has a half-decent track, “Demi,” named after her. Restraining order incoming?
If you’re interested in exploring the SoundCloud rap scene, I wouldn’t recommend starting with Bawskee. In fact, I would suggest never listening to Bawskee.
TOP: "Let It Eat", "Sick Shit"
BOTTOM: The rest