#BandcampGold-Stuck by Nickelus F
On the first real song(Sleazie Wonder) of his new album STUCK, Nickelus F says “Shoulda got a mixtape award but peace to Justo.” He’s absolutely right. In 2013 he released one of my favorite mixtapes of all time (Vices). I listened to it constantly and scoured the internet looking for who produced it, no way this dude with twisted up tissues jammed in his nose created these beats! I’ve never lost the name Nickelus F since the day I realized Vices was him head to toe.
When STUCK came out I had that Nickelus F back. The texture of the music is mid-tempo with gorgeous samples twisted and planted in perfect spots. The songs ring of the nihilism Weeknd traffics with the controlled additive bounce of peak Paul Wall. I told people in my office his story, starting with the old days blowing Drake off tracks and just grinding, being that guy who cares as much about the melody as he does the lyrical content.
Yea Aight is probably the most succinct proof of my previous statement. The hook is gorgeous over piano keys and savagely rolling bass, stitched in samples, and this dude does not have anything my mom would consider a great voice. Nickelus F sounds like a lifetime cigarette smoker with the worst nasal congestion you can imagine. He has the kind of voice I wouldn’t want for speaking let alone singing but he is a solid gold genius who can throw it all over the field of play. On That’s Fact he sticks the landing on every short choppy line of trap cadence only to switch up and stretch out on the next track (On Our Own).
STUCK has definite high points. The second half is amazing. The people in my office who I forced into listening to it came out genuinely surprised and enriched. Hands is one of the very best songs released in 2018 by anyone. The perfect mix of a warped soul sample an ill chorus and bars that mean business by a guy who owned the mic at 106 & Park for 7 weeks(Freestyle Friday hall of fame). Horace Hardbody The Statue is inarguably the best lyrical performance. This dude said “Cigarettes burn and tap ashes like congas.” All this being said STUCK isn’t a performative soap opera narrative or politically uplifting or autobiographical balling. It doesn’t have take over the world singles. It is about the light continual malaise of living in this world. On Horace Hardbody he says “If you’re like me likely you don’t sleep.” STUCK is an oddball’s celebration of the chaos left where peace could have been. It is the single best second listen in 2018 hip hop for me because everything I missed the first time was there and richly defined.
I love that he does all this himself. I love that he has been lacing verses about subtle misery without shaving off the hard edges WAY before anyone else and is now better at it than ninety percent of the game (If you think I’m nuts listen to The Darkie). I want everyone who loves Drake to know STUCK and know that below the top tier of blockbuster pop rap is the real interesting stuff; a whole world of people taking chances without anyone to stop them or force them into bad guest features or big name producers. People who have so much nasal blockage we should probably set up a way to donate so we can help…but are absolute wizards in every regard of music and they don’t toil in obscurity. Not for me. To me they are giants. To me Nickelus F in 2018(like he was in 2013) is a giant.
Stream or BUY STUCK below:
My Case for Most Improved Artist of 2013
2013 hip hop is without a narrative. Trap sputtered out like Drill did. Instead of riding some massive new bubble of a movement we saw a little bit of everything. This makes crowning MVP very difficult but Most Improved is not nearly as hard. No one has impressed me this year like Nickelus F who dropped two pitch perfect mixtapes and another very interesting one, producing a lot of his best music himself.
Vices was the first to catch my eye and when I saw Nickelus F on the cover with tissues wadded up and jammed up his nose I had a shake your head moment. Only this dude would think of this. Vices is the rare case of a mixtape so good that it didn’t even get better during further listens. He took the Houston sound (producing the whole thing himself) that Drake uses to make pop tragic-romance and turned it into a strumming evil he confessed over. In no uncertain terms he was there to tell you “You got a skeleton my closet holds a graveyard (Beast of Burden).” If you’d like to hear more about Vices you should check out the review I wrote earlier in the year (https://freemusicempire.com/2013/02/09/nickelus-f-vices-mixtape-review/). It did much more than just open my eyes to Sweet Petey as an artist. It awakened a great curiosity. Where did all this come from? What was the process of making Vices like? How could he have the stones to sing when his nose is so damn clogged up?
He followed Vices with PTPT and I can’t tell you how excited I was. Not just because of Vices look at the titles on this project. Its final song is called The Scorpion Shat A Diamond & It Shined On Dem Hoezz. In a lot of ways PTPT represents everything you need to know about F this year. He’s fearlessly jarringly funny in the darkest ways as he raps “Just laugh at these empty pockets and all of these twitter mentions f#$% that I need a commission I stick my whole fist in the ass of hip hop and have the whole game clinching” over the pops and whizzes of the masterfully disarming and catchy beat he created for The Exchange. He somehow sings hooks that stick in your brain, can rap forever and find perfect M.O.P. samples to loop but when I tell people about his year I lead with “this dude said he stuck his whole fist in the ass of hip hop.” He doesn’t expend his jokes on others alone or get cheeky in any way, if anything, he leads with himself as the issue. He’ll tell you that J. Cole made Nas proud and he still can’t make his mom proud and describe himself in a brutally short summation that will floor you like on the song Watermelon and Chicken where over smoked out boom bap he blurts out “Bright future black lungs,” and it seems like such a casually cruel way to describe yourself. The song A Suggestion From Sloppy Seconds is not about some groupie as sloppy seconds, its him. It’s how women describe him.
Yellow Gold 2 is the collaborative sequel from F and producer Ohbliv. It’s great lyrically but the most important take away is how valuable F is behind the boards. A song like Give A Damn flows and his verses work but it doesn’t have the sharp samples or odd background noises you can find on PTPT. Good Treatment showcases more funny sadness and sad funniness but the beat again is dialed down enough to lose your attention. Yellow Gold 2 is good but it brought me back to PTPT with renewed admiration for Sweet Petey’s diabolical ingenuity.
The brutality of Nickelus F is in honesty and he turns it on women, haters, and the industry but mostly himself in a way so few people are willing too. One of the ways positive reviews go wrong is when the reviewer gives the impression that their blessing has given the artist new vim and vigor. It’s the exact opposite; F brought me into his world this year. Now I know who Radio B is due to multiple impressive guest features and can track his music. If you asked me when the year began about F I would have told you he could kill a 16 but he’s a shock rapper. Now I know so much more and it’s because his music is better by a staggering margin.
Stream or download PTPT below:
Stream or download Yellow Gold 2 below:
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: