Trippie Redd: !

Trippie Redd: !

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2019

Trippie Redd’s sprawling album is designed to show his versatility, but it’s not nearly wild enough to distract from its lack of coherent ideas.

To illustrate his chameleonic talents, the young Ohio rapper Trippie Redd has scheduled a slate of new albums: a rock record with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, and an as-yet-to-be-explained project that proposes to show off an “unknown” side of him. But first comes !, which he’s specifically described as “versatile music.” The plan is to prove there isn’t anything he can’t do. In his quest to be master of all, he falls woefully short.

Redd says ! is an abbreviation for “immortal” and an homage to his late frenemy XXXTentacion’s album ?. Where X aimed for lo-fi emo-rap turned pop, Trippie is wholly without a target. He shoots from the hip in all directions with several misfires. EDM-smeared pop, woozy R&B, soul-rap, and melodic trap are touched on with nothing to tie these disparate threads together. The face-tatted howler leans heavily into his menacing TR666 alter ego, flipping back and forth between his signature lovesick persona and playing the nihilistic gangster. Between these poles, songs touch on being true to oneself at all costs, but these half-baked lessons land flat since Redd himself doesn’t really have an identity, musical or otherwise.

Like many in his class of SoundCloud stars, Trippie defines himself by his melodies. He cites KISS and Nirvana as influences, and his songs are predicated on him finding a tune and then freestyling the lyrics. Most of what happens here couldn’t even realistically be considered rapping, which he might argue is further proof of his flexibility, but it diminishes the impact of his songs. His ! verses are dull and unimaginative on top of being restrictive in form. Tune in at any point and you’ll likely get a fumbled string of nonsense bars. “Tryna sink my damn thoughts with these trees/Like a bible open when I spread her legs like the seas,” he raps on a song called “Lil Wayne.” (There is no mention of the rapper and it isn’t indebted to him, stylistically or otherwise.) Redd gets out-barred by a seemingly non-committal Playboi Carti name-dropping a half-dozen brands in his baby voice. Redd wants the listener to believe him virtuosic, but he barely comes off as capable.

! was advertised to his fans as the more profound of two upcoming projects, which isn’t hard when the other one is called Mobile Suit Pussy. “I just have random spurts of wanting to record but I always want it to mean something; I always want it to be deep,” he told MIC/LINE. “I don’t want to just be doing shit blindly.” But listening to this album, you’d think the exact opposite were true. No Trippie Redd song could ever actually be described as “deep”—the most thoughtful ones are less philosophical than any one of Lil B’s Based Freestyles—but these, in particular, are jumbled and digressive and witless. He has claimed “Snake Skin” is about suicide prevention, and maybe it really is in some hyper-surreal dadaist way, but then, on the very next song, he raps, “Y’all all need to change, man y’all need some help/And if you can’t, on God, nigga kill yourself.” He is constantly contradicting himself. Nothing means anything.

If nothing else, the exclamation of the title is in line with how Trippie Redd often performs; a cry of anger or pain that feels like an interjection. At his most effective, on “Mac 10” and “Immortal,” he harnesses that power. The most enjoyable moments feel like controlled chaos. Redd’s songs used to be looser and more free-flowing. He does at least sound more composed. That’s to his credit as a person but it’s not to his advantage as an artist.

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