Nickelus F-Vices mixtape review
You can hear Nickelus F blow Drake off of his own tracks when Drake was focused on rapping (Room for Improvement era). For my ears it never translated to his music, he always had a masterful in your face flow but came off as a shock rapper. Having a bold flow like Busta Rhymes isn’t as much of a gift as people might think, the audience gets used to it then tired of it and stops listening to what you’re saying. All they can hear is how you say it.
I am absolutely baffled by his new mixtape Vices. The off putting cover says all the songs were produced by Nickelus F but other sites are saying at least one of the songs (Number 15) was produced by Jake One. Either he took his music into a different direction, taking the slow promethazine chopped not slopped Houston rider music and sucking it through a depression vortex or he has ghost producers doing great work. I am in no position to say which but if I could interview any rapper right now about their music it would be Nickelus F about Vices.
Emerging from the tense haze of a stretched sample on Beast of Burden he starts to give us what he’s known for “I smoke until I’m dead and come alive when I snort, I kill that F#$%ing B#%$ and take a ride with the corpse.” He talks about ghosts, goblins, groceries on lay away and establishes his depression aggressively with lines like “You got a skeleton, my closet holds a graveyard.” With tracks like Halfway Dead, Painkillerz, and Beast of Burden you might think the listening experience would be one dimensional, no danger of that here. Throughout Vices he does a masterful job of saying funny things, distasteful things, and somber things utilizing the same haymaker flow. The song My Convo provides a great example “She said my dick the bomb sh#t tell me something I don’t know…like what the f#ck is in hot dogs…”
He sings the chorus’s mindfully, taking a raspy voice and straightening it out in an honest attempt at singing. The tension makes songs like Halfway Dead work, of the fifteen tracks you’d be hard pressed to find one that is a throw away, half conceived “off the top” experiment. Everything is placed where it needs to be. Songs like The Boomerang Nunchucks and My 3rd Cuzzin’ are so serious that others like Tanqueray (with its lasso sound effect and deep bass line) or Jet Fuel (a laid back smoker sex song with a great blast of horns and the best chorus of the tape) are necessary to let off steam.
A lot of the press Vices gets is about the reuniting, artistically, of Drake and Nickelus F on the last song Number 15. It has to follow the classically unclassy sex song Petey’s Wingz where our narrator promises to snap his lover’s spine with sex impact and have her scream so hoarse she sounds like Jadakiss. He sings almost all of it adding a little R. Kelly “I believe I can Fly” that brings him closest to Old Dirty on Sweet Sugar Pie…but at the end the epic Drake voicemail comes and then the promise is fulfilled. Number 15 is not a single; it’s a strum of a backbeat with aggression and frustration stewing into overwhelming melancholy. It’s a good song but a lot of people that hear it as a single won’t listen to the full tape and feel the emotional voyage through great samples (Outkast sample on A Bird) and the most versatile lyrical project in the Nickelus F catalog. Drake is a great bookend to it but he’s not the full book. All in all Vices is one of a handful of really resonant projects this year. It’s well worth any time you give it.
check out Nickelus F’s mixtape and nose horns on the cover below: