Thoughts on Desiigner’s “New English”

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Since the inception of Desiigner’s “Panda” and his rise in recognition since being featured on Kanye West’s latest commercial release, The Life of Pablo, the comparisons between Future and Desiigner have been nonstop.

In fact, many listeners and reviewers initially mistook Desiigner’s auto-tune flow on “Pt. 2” to be Future. Since the release of “Panda,” nothing Desiigner has released has quite been substantial enough to be able to discern the 19 year old’s style, and whether he would continue on the path as a Future clone, or establish his own lane with the help of Pusha T, the new president of G.O.O.D. Music, who signed Desiigner shortly after his appearance on The Life of Pablo.

Not having released any singles of his own since “Panda,” instead appearing briefly on Kanye West’s “Champions” and Jim Jones’s “Finesse,” Desiigner kept his brand shrouded, and any news on an upcoming mixtape or album under wraps. The lack of new music whipped forums and blogs into speculation on where Desiigner would take his career next, especially after his unprecedented initial success.

New English premiered as a Tidal exclusive, giving everyone a chance to listen to a proper full project by the 19-year-old rapper. Many have waited to see if Desiigner was more than a clone of Future or an industry planted artist, but they will find a seemingly incomplete and underwhelming collection of tracks. Tracks cut off abruptly, without outros, leaving the listener to figure out whether it is done intentionally as a stylistic choice, or as a sneak peek at future (no pun intended) songs that are to be on his upcoming album, “Life of Desiigner.”In many ways this release is much like Travis Scott’s Owl Pharaoh—a collection of tracks that did not seem finished and couldn’t answer the question of “who exactly is Travis Scott?”. However, Desiigner does not seem to have the eclectic styling of Travis, the lean-fueled emotion of Future, or even the pop-appeal of Fetty Wap.

To an extent, the comparisons between Desiigner and Future are deserved, as Desiigner’s so called “autotune lungs” do result in him rapping with a very similar voice and flow as Future. While Desiigner still sounds very similar to Future on some tracks, he shows up with a fury unseen in Future’s work since his high energy feature on “Jump Out the Face,” by Meek Mill. Almost every track, with the exception of the Travis Scott influenced “Overnight,” on this project hits hard, with Desiigner bringing the undeniably endearing 19-year-old energy that is rare in Future’s music, which is more dominated by an uninspired, drowsy sound that sounds as if Future really has gone “codeine crazy.” On the other hand, Desiigner is a rapid fire machine gun, having gone cocaine crazy rather than codeine crazy, hitting without warning from the very start. The peaceful, Disney sounding, rococo type violin arrangement that is the intro transitions without warning into a trap beat, complete with the producer tag, “Oh you didn’t know this was a NickFRSH beat?” twice, before assaulting us with Desiigner’s aggressive delivery of “I make a lot of new different money/Trap overnight like it’s fifty summie.” The use of refined, orchestral music throughout the album in the interludes, in addition to other sound effects sprinkled throughout, adds a unique ambiance to the album, creating an eerie air of the unexpected and paranormal. For instance, on “Roll Wit Me,” dark piano keys contrast with a child laughing and a laugh turned scream distorted to the point of actually sounding painful and almost supernatural. This trap mixed with classical and paranormal themes can be seen as Desiigner’s attempts to set himself from other rappers, even in the most minuscule manner, although it is unclear how much of it is his doing, and whether or not Executive Producer Mike Dean is responsible for this sound.

Setting himself apart Future specifically in this sense, Desiigner does not necessarily receive a pass on biting Future completely, However, the mere fact of the similarity of their voices and the use of flow Future himself popularized, even influencing non-trap rappers like Chance the Rapper, leads to this flow becoming more widespread, makes it difficult for Desiigner to establish his own lane, especially at the tender age of 19. Despite all the similarities with Future, it’s hard to believe that with the help of Pusha T, Kanye West, Mike Dean, and the rest of the G.O.O.D. music team, Desiigner won’t be able to find a sound of his own. Despite being surrounded by some of the best rap artists of the generation and having been signed by one of them. Desiigner hardly relies on big features and name drops to claim authenticity. Besides an obligatory feature by Pusha T, the very man who signed Desiigner to G.O.O.D., the only real reference to his new posse can be heard in “Talk Regardless,” where Desiigner boasts that “me and Kanye way wild, we like two demons.” Having been criticized for his style’s resemblance to Future on “Panda,” Desiigner also largely borrows from Travis Scott’s styles on this mixtape. For instance, on “Talk Regardless” and “Overnight” the hooks are very similar to something Travis Scott has done, with a touch of high-browed ignorance on “Overnight,” giving it the decadent, glossy trap sound Travis Scott perfected on his track “90210.” In other words, while Desiigner goes over instrumentals with beautiful synth leads, instrumentation and a touch of artsiness, he retains the grittiness of music coming from the trap. Also, on “Make It Out,” Desiigner’s delivery would be most comparable to a Tyler, The Creator “gone trap.”

Alternatively, Desiigner seems to be doing his best impression of Botswana artist Zuse, who has a distinctly harsh delivery and voice. Despite showing much, maybe too much, influence from other artists, the switch in styles are well utilized on the second track of the album to show early on that Desiigner can diversify his music and still keep it fresh and entertaining. The harsh delivery and hard lyrics over the typical dark trap beat creates the atmosphere of the trap Desiigner lived in, and the chaos of his environment growing out, where he was shot at the early age of 14. In fact, “Make It Out” sounds like Desiigner’s number one response to those who criticize him for his similarities to Future.

As a matter of fact, one of the things Desiigner executed most successfully on this album was moving on from the escapism of “Panda,” which was a song centered around a “White X6” that “looks like a panda” and “broads in Atlanta.” Instead of continuing that relatively brighter and more materialistic brand of trap, songs like “Make It Out” and “Shooters” discuss a harder version of the trap that Desiigner lived in, minus the luxury he describes in “Panda.” Panda is even sonically brighter, with less of the ambient dark sounds in the background that exist in many tracks on New English, creating the darker, more moody feel. This pent up angst of years in the trap have been released in this album in the form of the tense and aggressive energy and atmosphere on this album.

It would be hard pressed to pick out a favorite song, due to many tracks sounding the same or me just forgetting about them. Sonically, many of the songs seem like they are following the same machine gun scat-rapping until “Da Day”–which features verses from Milly.CTD—this track actually has a nice switch-up halfway that is probably the only really time in the tape where Desiigner’s raw energy seems to be warranted. Another reason why tracks might be less memorable could be the shortness of the tracks. While songs like “Da Day” go on for 6:45 (it is also two tracks in one) most of the songs like “Caliber,” “Shooters,” and “Monstas and Villains” are 2:03, 1:28, and 0:37 respectively, leaving the listener with but a sample of what the song could have been. It strikes me as if Desiigner laid down the hook, for example, to “Monstas and Villains,” and that he just forgot to do the rest of the song and uploaded it like that to Tidal. The tracks tend to ask more questions about who Desiigner is and if there is anything more to his two-dimensional pictures of driving phantoms with choppers and shooters at 3 AM. It is easy to forget about the track as it blends between other more sonically diverse and lengthy songs, as is the case for many other tracks as well.

Overall, a somewhat repetitive sound from an artist who does have a knack for making sound effects of a machine gun with his mouth and mixing it together with the raw energy that at times is more like a lean-aided MC Ride-lite than is Future-like can be encountered on New English. What type of career Desiigner may make for himself with his new found success and label backing is both certain and uncertain—the sound he is going for is clearly established in this project but there is a good chance that G.O.O.D. music will encourage him to embrace a more R&B crossover approach which has Future to turn from “Same Damn Time” trap anthem creator to “Rich $ex” crooner. A step in the right direction was taken with the step away from material rap and toward dark stories of reality and hopefully on his full-length album. Desiigner would have to do something a little more introspective for such a project, though. In many ways, Desiigner knows what is in the vogue of 2016 trap music, drill-type scatting, grimy beats and finding the right combination of lean, Xanax and Adderall. If the soulful sound of Desiigner’s XXL Freestyle can be combined on an album with his new emerging styles and coexist with his original trap style. “Life of Desiigner” may be an album to look out for, and not just for the bangers.

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