Sheck Wes: The New Nirvana. On Mudboy, the rapper made famous by “Mo Bamba” proved that he’s more than just the biggest hit of late summer. Wes came through with a great diversity of sound, departing from the booming bass and punchlines of his hit track and opting instead for an eclectic mix of snapping trap drums, spacey vocals, and hypnotizing synth leads. His punk attitude is on full blast, and the featureless debut proves his desire to prove himself through pure honesty.
Often when artists include pre-released singles on their albums, it feels like basic stream-trolling; the songs just don’t fit in with the rest of the album. Many of the biggest acts in hip-hop, from Migos, Drake, and Wiz Khalifa, to Post Malone and Rae Sremmurd, have caved into the allure of streaming numbers, prioritizing the charts above their art. But when the first chime of the Sept. 2017 single “Live Sheck Wes” comes in after the dark and brooding energy of the opening track, “Mindfucker,” it’s clear that these songs were meant to be enjoyed together.
“Gmail” is my favorite song on the album. Although it’s great for the reference to my favorite email server (screw you, Hotmail), the track is really made special by its switches in beat and in flow. It opens with some ominous “Sheck Wes” ad-libs and a short braggadocios verse, then transitions to a disjointed explanation about why he uses the b-word as his go-to ad-lib. He quits the monologue and quickly enters a sing-songy flow, rapping: “I live a, I live a MudBoy lifestyle, killers on speed dial / Don’t fuck with Sheck Wes, we gon’ break a ki’ down.” His nose for clever bars and slick references really comes out on this one, with basketball references aplenty. His spits bars about his women treating him like a bad loss in NBA 2K, and compares himself to Kobe Bryant and Latrell Sprewell.
“Wanted” is a more basic track with basic trap drums and a pretty odd delivery. His flow is dynamic once again, rapping at full volume at some points while an odd “I was wanted” whisper repeats during the track. Throughout the chorus, Wes rants about being wanted from 14th to 116th, which coincidentally contains the entirety of New York City. Talk about a following for the cult hero.
“Never Lost,” is a motivational anthem about Sheck’s upbringing in Harlem and Senegal. The first two tracks go into the dangerous Harlem area where he grew up, and the behavior that got him sent back to Senegal. The third is a passionate and energetic performance, as Sheck shows off his rhythmic understanding with roundabout wordplay that moves in and out of beat alongside several lines that stretch through different bars. The verse also holds several references to Wakanda, as well a proclamation that he’s “goin’ in” like a pornstar. At points, it’s difficult to stay focused, but it’s a unique and interesting delivery that feels close to home. Allegedly, the track was a first-take freestyle, according to his Tweet on Oct. 12.
The spacey, comforting “WESPN,” slows the momentum created on “Never Lost.” Wes creates a started-from-the-bottom feel throughout his verses, and directly addresses the feeling he’s trying to capture with the track; “They just want the turnt shit / They don’t like the sad music / Sheck Wes been in a sad state.” It’s a welcome change of pace after a collection of bangers to start the project.
One of the proudest moments on the album is “Jiggy On The Shit.” The sound isn’t anything incredible until the second verse, where Wes switches to his native Senegalese tongue, Wolof. It’s always interesting when rappers introduce other languages, and this one is especially important given his tumultuous upbringing. His flow when rapping in Wolof is far smoother than any of his verses in English.
“Danimals” is another track that feels true to Sheck’s sense of humor. He comes with some great yogurt-themed bars, reminding fans that nobody’s too famous for some Danimals. “They say I’m an animal like my boys up in the zoo / I’m a fuckin’ Danimal, yogurts up in my coupe.” The rest of the song keep up themes of people hating on him, people doubting his ability, and his overall drive to be the best he can be. Unfortunately, it is not one of the better tracks on the album, but it’s gotta be one of the first times the children’s yogurt brand has been shouted out in a rap song.
Impressive throughout the album is the production. According to the man himself, Wes produced the entire album other than “Mo Bamba.” The variance from beat while staying true to the mega-bass he seems to love effectively showcases his talent. That’s a common theme for this debut album- showing off what Sheck can do. His personality is always on display, from the head-banging of “Mo Bamba” to the softy floating melody of “WESPN.” In a September interview with LA Leakers, Wes said that he “could have had a million features on there, but I want people to understand me first and what I do, rather than who I know.”
Given the one-hit manner in which Sheck became famous, it’s great to see that he could put together such a nuanced album. Given his goals to become the first Rapper/Model/NBA Star/Nobel Peace Prize Winner in history, let’s just hope that he’s not too busy to continue putting out such fun art.