Desiigner – New English (Mixtape Review)

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Although Desiigner continues to prove himself to be the human incarceration of the 100 emoji as he dabs and aggressively ad-libs his way through music and life itself, that energy translates poorly on wax on his debut effort.

Few artists can claim they were signed to a major hip-hop label, had their first #1 smash hit with their first major release, and had two features on a Kanye West album at the ripe young age of 18 years old – an impressive feat and insanely drastic lifestyle change that Dezolo Royel, more commonly known as ‘Desiigner‘, has embraced with open arms and a presumably sore neck. Wether the Brooklyn rapper is turning up to crowds that couldn’t look less interested or slowly lapsing into rap when coherently reading ‘Panda’ lyrics, something must be said for his consistently ridiculous energy levels and the fact that he appears to simply love what he’s doing – having as much fun as he possibly can in the luxury of the limelight. The rapper’s fifteen minutes of fame is also set to last a little longer following the growing popularity of his melodic and haunting XXL Freestyle, Timmy Turner.

It’s hard to deny Desiigner as almost an enigma of hype, bringing a distinct energy to everything he does – an intoxicating quality that eventually led to Pusha T signing him to G.O.O.D Music earlier this year. When asked for their opinion on Desiigner as a musician, his peers in the music industry will undoubtedly mention his fun-loving outlook and attitude towards everything as his greatest asset – Push distinguished him as an inspirational ‘spark’ to the G.O.O.D. roster.

On New English however, Desiigner’s pre-album mixtape prior to the release of Life of Desiigner, that contagious liveliness and ambition fails to translate into music as well as it did on Panda.

Occasionally interrupted by hauntingly beautiful (yet wildly out of place) orchestral interludes, the tracks are all aggressive, blunt, and most are jarringly cut short, with only one of the first 10 songs surpassing the 3-minute mark. Desiigner‘s haughty, leaned-out slur flow explodes on every hard-hitting instrumental on the project, however the redundant trap production and generic ‘gang-gang‘ nature of the songs feels tedious and all too familiar far too quickly as the project seemingly panders to as many predictable trap tropes as possible. When the first three bars of album opener Caliber establish every subject the album will discuss – money, ‘killas’, blunts, and lean – it becomes clear that the next 30 odd minutes are going to simply be more of the same. It’s a realisation that is more of a tired groan than anything, as the daunting chore of hearing the same thing you’ve heard before, done worse, becomes a reality.

The goofy lovability of a kid describing broads he doesn’t have in a city he’s never been to is nowhere to be found on New English. Dezolo‘s magnetic personality is replaced with nothing but skyrocket energy as he begins to take himself a touch too seriously on lacklustre album cuts like Talk Regardless and Make It Out. At other times, it seems his ambition is all but gone, namely on the insanely uninspired Roll Wit Me.

Mike Dean‘s personal effort is also more questionable than ever here following his incredibly underwhelming work on The Life of Pablo. Shoddy mixing and mastering plague each song, leading to horrible volume normalisation and tracks like Shooters ending up as chaotic messes of level compression, distorted 808s and ear-grating ad-libs. 

It isn’t until the the final 5 tracks that the tape begins to show hints of promise that Royel is more than just another banal viral sensation.

An uncredited guest spot from Milly.CTD introduces banger Da Day, carving through the monotony with a surprisingly dope feature that quite easily outshines Desiigner on his own song, as it’s almost disappointing when the rapper comes croaking into the mix to introduce an excellent beat-switch that Milly returns on with two more captivating verses. The following track, Jet featuring Pusha T, seems to embrace the damning comparisons to Future that has cursed both artist’s careers and attempt to replicate his style as closely as possible for three and a half minutes. Overnight and the catchy Zombie Walk are both standouts on the tape, however neither feels like anything new to the scene and it’s unlikely that either has the same hit-factor as Panda, the final track.

As the signature Panda synths gradually fade out at the tape’s end, it’s hard to avoid wondering wether or not the smash hit was the best that Desiigner had to offer as an artist, or if he’s just another of the many artists Kanye has accessorised until he ventures in a different musical direction.

If Desiigner‘s first project was intended to solidify him as an artist with musical prowess and potential, poised for future success, New English is a misfire on all fronts.

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