Album Review: Sheck Wes’ Mudboy (2018 LP) is anything but complacent

Within the last few months, Sheck Wes’ meteoric rise to acclaim has imbued him with all of the qualities of a future star, turning attention to his first project. The proliferation of his most well known single ‘Mo Bamba’ has been astounding, allowing Wes to gather hordes of fans in a very short period of time. The model-turned-rapper has well and truly capitalised with Mudboy.

Wes’ music feels like a response to current trends and debate within modern rap music – where artists let lyrics and writing take a backseat to flows and rhythms, or the inverse, where lyrics stand at the forefront of an artists’ work. Wes manages to balance this paradigm extremely well, making loud and energetic music that mirrors trap trends, while still conveying a number of more serious concepts within his music. ‘Live Sheck Wes’ executes this perfectly, with the cacophonous basslines and tweaking synths acting as the background to a number of insights into the difficulties of Sheck Wes’ environment growing up and some of the socioeconomic rifts and discrimination he has been subject to in his Harlem upbringing.

The album itself starts in excellent fashion – the first 5 songs are extremely consistent in establishing a rolling, fast pace – soundtracked by compressed 808’s and skittering drum sections. ‘Wanted’ showcases more structured writing from Wes, with less repeated refrains, crafting a greater narrative of the paranoia implicit in violence and crime, and how those who are marginalised can fall into that world.

With his experience moving to Senegal and living in Touba, Wes has repeatedly stated his desires to give hope to the underprivileged, using this desire as a motivation to fully commit to his crafts (of which there are many, including rapping, modelling, and basketball) to drive him forward. This drive and motivation is palpable throughout the project, with every typical rapper flex balanced by an awareness of his progression thus far, and that there is more ahead. It would be easy for a rapper who had a single of ‘Mo Bamba’ status to simply cash in on a studio album to keep some of the hype alive (Desiiigner, I’m looking at you) but Wes has crafted a proper statement on his art to date, and lays out a blueprint for his plans for the future.

‘Kyrie’ acts as a standout track, with a snappy melody underpinned by hollow synths which add an oddly soothing tone despite the intensity of the song and Mudboy as a whole. The song is definitely fun, and the catchiness keeps momentum high for the rest of the project – with a similar level of brazen pacing and booming basslines.

Mudboy closes with ‘Vetements Socks’, which almost sounds like an even more modernised Yung Lean instrumental – with some psychedelic guitars and slower bass acting as a tonal shift from the majority of the project, with a more relaxed and slower paced song. The numerous flexes and brags instills a sense of triumph, accentuated by the uplifting nature of the instrumental – as the album concludes, it feels like Sheck Wes is looking back upon his progress, and then to the future.

This project acts as a rationale for the hype surrounding Wes as an artist. He shows his writing ability, as well as his propensity to craft hits with ease – but most importantly, shows he knows there’s a long way to go.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Mudboy is now available through Cactus Jack Records

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