I cannot tell you how glad I am that Fatboi Sharif has gone on one of the most thorough and well executed press runs. From DadBodRapPod to The Rap Music Plug to #FMEAttentionUndivided he has been clear, passionate and engaging in discussing his 2020 album with Roper Williams. More than anyone else he knew how much was hidden inside it, the lessons underneath the sensational delivery, shocking references, and legendary production. Now that July 1st has come and gone, I have gotten some time with the newly released deluxe edition and I’m comfortable telling you it is one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time. Firstly, I’ll explain why I think that. Second, I’ll explain what it taught me…not about the world in general but about how I approach listening to music.
- The power of sequencing-If you love album sequencing you already know the planning and plotting behind the first six songs on this is mastermind level. For those used to traditional sounds, topics, and delivery the first two songs are a shock. On Tragic he does a Latina voice as he says “Mind unhinged, rest in peace Selena! I killed my friend.” I was not ready. The next song, I’m Buggin, starts “I’m ashy, I’m creepy. Stashed underneath me, a Latin believes me. Stocking cap with the genie.” These are cold water to the face tracks that take the listener out of their comfort zone or preconceived notions, bleaching away the conventions. The next two songs: Fly Pelican and Smithsonian are undeniably opulent, knocking hip hop songs that Sharif really shines on. His opening line on Smithsonian is wonderful, “A Latin scroll viewed over Alaskan home, science just strolled nude to a climactic role.” Vocally he’s always adjusting slipping into higher and lower tones, inferring in chunks or declaring truths. The average listener, shocked by the first two, can’t leave after the next two. It just knocks too hard. Xavenstein is Roper Williams showing off, giving the best beat of the project in thirty eight seconds with no rapping over it. It throws into one of hip hops best back and forths between Sharif and L.I.F.E. Long on The Cure For Amoxicillin. At two minutes and thirty seconds, as they both finish with melted microphones, you can hear them laughing knowing how special this turned out.
- It’s anti-fantasy-What we don’t realize is that a lot of the popular music we consume is consumerist fantasy. Music that makes you want to buy new clothes, go to the club and buy drinks. If you digest fantasy enough the lines can blur, so upon first listen I messed up. Called it horrorcore but it never was. In the wake of the Trump Administration, COVID 19 terrifying the world, police brutality towards so many and the protests that resulted…we were feeling disgusting. So much of the art we were spending our time with was made before those events and never mentioned it or gingerly sidestepped the thick feeling of sickness we all shared. This album pushed us in the water so we could swim. Murder Them is what first made me aware of this process. The first listen was just absorbing the texture, the pure difference in how punk-rock-scream his tone had become. Once my ears were on I could hear “Not going through this, now you sick…” as he talks about the great blue wall of silence or just says “lights flash, VIOLENT ANGER.” Roper turned up the anxiety to ten on the hatchet thriller scrambled fuzz beat. Sharif inhabited the raw emotion people had been trying not to face. It’s the bleach again. He stripped it all away and showed us the floor.
- A unique perspective does not mean much to me if it isn’t well done. Great work gets the chance to grow with us because no matter how challenging it is to understand ,on some level, we know it’s great. Roper gave a lot of folks great beats from AKAI SOLO to Droog to Navy Blue but no one and I mean no one got out of Roper what Sharif did. So while this album exists in its own lane the details are more beautiful the more you see them. When you first saw the alien in Alien you were scared but later you took the time to look at H.R. Giger’s art and realized the alien was always beautiful. It’s one of the best designed things in American movie history. It takes years of enjoying the movie, watching how it was made, later pointing out wack rip offs of it, to appreciate the craft in it. That’s what Gandhi Loves Children is to hip hop in this era.
The deluxe edition is worth every penny. Angels & Demons is an ill loop with Sharif’s voice lower and scarier as monsters hide in the closet, bloody icepicks come out of nowhere. Prescription is a prime example of his slinky flow which can speed up then stretch, like very few would even think to do. Everything added is a big add. To answer the title of this article: I had rigidity built into my listening in ways I didn’t understand. Looking for connections and references that functioned the same way as classifications had me going in the wrong direction on what GLC is about. I need to work on that. Too often my brain calls something weird without understanding that a lot of people see that as a negative term. The left field is always where the best work gets done. My library flashed to Doctor Octagon and drew a line to Buggin but Octagon is an exploration of free space, doing things no one had previously dared to do. Hugely valuable in expanding the world of this genre but GLC, by contrast, is a hyper reality an anthemic spotlight to the hideousness we have allowed around us. The more I listen and listen to new work by Sharif and Roper I can’t help but think we are going to look back on GLC as a real benchmark for this high point in underground hip hop.
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