Really, we don’t know too much about the latest member of the TDE roster, Lance Skiiiwalker. He first featured on the title track of Jay Rock’s 90059. At this point, most had not heard of the Chicago native, with some even believing the name was merely Jay Rock’s alter ego due to his sound. Since then we’ve heard a few features of his, but not a lot of his own sound.
So that leads into the actual record itself, which didn’t receive a huge amount of promo from TDE, which I hope is not to the albums detriment. This sound takes some adjusting to, simply because in a similar vain to listening to Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition, I hadn’t heard anything like this before. My brain raced trying to place this sound somewhere on the hip-hop/RnB spectrum. I loathe to use the term Alternative, as we tend to just throw it at music we can’t pigeonhole easily and I feel that it sometimes takes away from art. But here, it is fitting and wholly necessary. Do not come into this album expecting anything similar to any mainstream artist you’ve heard before . Do not come into this expecting to hear any bars, even with the ScHoolboy Q feature, but I’ll get into that a bit later. With the smoothness of say an Isaiah Rashad and the distorted vocals of a Travis Scott or Kanye West, it can sometimes be easy to get lost in the myriad of sounds here. This doesn’t mean I don’t like it however, on the contrary I really do. It’s artistic, experimental and very creative; I really can’t think of another artist who sounds like this and believe me I’ve tried. I know the only non hip-hop artist on TDE is SZA but this album is an entirely different entity.
Starting the album with “Forbidden Fruit” pretty much sets the tone for the juxtaposing styles throughout the album, from its smooth opening and slightly distorted vocals into this banger beat. There is a lot going on here and from a technical standpoint, it is clear to see that a lot of work went into crafting the style Skiiiwalker carries. He is at his creative finest on the track “Speed” which is one of my favourites by a mile. It’s fast paced first half feels comparable to the party scene which he is describing, and his delivery as with pretty much every song on the record is spot on. Then the song transitions into its smoother sounding second half, which also matches the lyrics, becoming a much more “clean and sober” song. I loved the unconventional sound, chaotic juxtaposed with the smooth, recreating the highs and lows of drug use without the listener needing to be familiar with the substances. It felt natural and well executed where other artists have failed to really capture these feelings.
The song “Toaster” is really a standout to me on this record, so complex in it’s simplicity. I absolutely love the melody and delivery of Lance throughout this song. It’s smooth, it’s interesting and lyrically, the appeal is in its clarity and what I call, the sing along factor. Seeing ScHoolboy Q as a feature, I initially thought “Oh no, is he going to ruin this with a rap verse?!”. Well, he definitely didn’t do that. I never thought I’d actually hear ScHoolboy Q singing and what’s in some ways more shocking is that it totally fits the track, and whilst he doesn’t have the range of Skiiiwalker, he holds his own here. Another very enjoyable cut for me. Saving my personal favourite ’til last, “Could It Be”. The first half of the track is really sounds like this ethereal, experimental RnB sound that he crafts throughout the record that I definitely enjoyed. The beat has a lot of empty space in it, and he alternates between completely taking up that space early in this half and then leaving it more vacant as it drifts into the beat change. The second half in many ways reminds me of something Andre 3000 would have made, and it totally sounds authentic in the context of the album. Once again, Lance is album to make his vocal delivery the centrepiece which the instrumentation seems to intertwine with, so you’re never to lost in the airy atmosphere to drift off completely.
I feel that one of the album’s strongest points is that very fact. The varying sounds and tempos of the tracks really prevent boredom and doesn’t allow the listener to relegate it to background music. It’s like the album is saying “Oh, you liked the smooth way “Could it Be” ended? Well blaow here’s “Speed”, wake the hell up!”. The record for sure had me captivated throughout, I don’t think there is a single track here I would say it is necessary to skip. Overall, just an artist expressing their creativity and I am all for the ride.
Verdict on Lance Skiiiwalker – Very talented and creative artist, obviously they still know what they’re doing at TDE. Would love to see him integrated even more into the projects of other artists (Get Top on the phone!)