This album was released on April 24th this year. Believe it or not, this was one of my most anticipated albums of the year at one point. I can’t really explain why it took so long for me to get to this one. I’m sure there probably is a valid reason, but I genuinely can’t remember. Anyway, the reason I was so excited for this project was pretty much just because of the lead single. He dropped the title track ahead of time, and it blew me the fuck away, so I was psyched for this project. I wasn’t really crazy about his 0 Emissions compilation, but there was definitely a decent portion of material on there that I really liked. I wasn’t quite expecting this to be one of my favorite records of the year, but I was pretty sure it’d have some of the most interesting songs I’ve heard in a long ass time. Every song is self-produced, although there is additional instrumentation from Jon GK, Lawrence Shaw, Aaron Shaw, Mekala Session, Jamael Dean & Sharada Shashidhar. There are also uncredited features from Low Leaf, FR/BLCK/PR & Jeremiah Jae, but I’m not sure exactly which songs they’re all on.
This is arguably the weirdest album I’ve heard all year to be honest. I don’t know. I can’t decide. It’s between this one and Weevil in Disguise. They’re weird in different ways though. This one is even more confusing, mainly because the majority of the lyricism is borderline unintelligible. When zeroh raps, he doesn’t really focus on enunciation and clarity. Honestly, the pejorative term “mumble rap” would make far more sense for a project like this than the latest Young Thug record. Whether you view that as a bad thing or not is really up to you. I personally don’t actually mind. It’s kinda like a cLOUDDEAD album in that regard. The focus is on flows, melodies, and production rather than the lyricism, although the lyrics that can be deciphered are very interesting and well-written. Aside from his muttered vocals, the other aspect that makes the lyricism difficult to interpret is the pitch manipulation. There are a fuck ton of vocal effects all over this record. Not necessarily shit like autotune. It’s more like pitch shifting and reverb. That kinda shit. This album makes me feel like I’m somehow lucid during brain surgery, but without any pain. Like, this is what I would hear if a surgeon was slicing open my brain and messing around in my head. It’s pure insanity. The album starts off with a major highlight, which is the title track. I already wrote about it in one of my Best Singles of the Week posts earlier this year.
This is the first single, title track, and opening song from zeroh’s upcoming debut album on Leaving Records. It’s set to release on April 24th if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, this shit is amazing. Everything about it is fucking awesome. There’s not a single aspect of it that I don’t love. The best thing about it is just how black it sounds. This shit sounds like the longest dreadlocks wrapped around a black fist. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it reminds me mostly of Shabazz Palaces. I fucking love it. zeroh can rhyme his ass off, and the song sounds like a journey. The production, singing, rapping… It’s all perfect. This might actually be my favorite song of the whole week. Do not sleep on it. This shit is incredible. I cannot wait for the full album.
It might be my favorite track on the album to be honest. I haven’t decided yet. I think it’s got one of the best instrumentals, along with some of the best rapping, as well as the best overall vocal performance. The following track, Rites of Passage, is another major highlight for me. The production here is absolutely spectacular. zeroh doesn’t really rap on this one. It’s basically an instrumental track. It’s fucking amazing though. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m sinking into the night. I’m sure that makes little to no sense to whoever’s reading this, but I don’t know how else to articulate it. It sounds like blackness. Not blackness in terms of race or ethnicity. I mean the literal color. It sounds black. Track 3 is called Metacine, and this one features FR/BLCK/PR, which if you’re unfamiliar is Busdriver’s Spoken Word pseudonym. This is pretty much the only track where I can understand what’s being said.
Europeans have no woman god in their mythology
But we do
So what of the African mind in the West
Clouded by a point of view uniquely burdened with third party control strategies
When heroin hit over pimps and thugs
Pushing and peddling it to your daughters
When crack cocaine hit
We were welfare queens and gangbangers in the streets
Now when the opioid pandemic hits
The health crisis has been announced
He says a lot of pretty cool shit on this track, and the production from zeroh is a very pretty backdrop. I feel like an animated music video for this track would be amazing. It’s not a contender for my favorite track on the album, but it’s definitely a highlight for me. I think it’s dope as hell. Track 4, however, is a contender for my favorite song. It’s called Hydro, and I think it’s phenomenal. The melodic production here is absolutely gorgeous. zeroh’s vocal performance is pretty mesmerizing as well. It’s really the production that had me hooked though. I think it’s dope af. It’s followed by The Fade, which isn’t a highlight for me personally, but I still do really like it. Once again, I think the production is incredible. The vocal performance is so bizarre though. You know what else this album reminds me of? Since I can only make out like one couplet at a time every few seconds, this is almost like what being mentally ill is like for me. All the random lines I hear are the intrusive thoughts that always pop into my head when I’m depressed.
Why you so phony, yo? Thought we was homies, bro…
The production really enhances that interpretation too. It sounds like a descent into pure anguish. I love the way this track ends too. It sounds like I’m underwater, drowning in a sea of pain. The following track is a 50 second interlude called You Can’t Unsee It, and it’s really good. It’s eerily similar to Florida by Frank Ocean. I think this album actually has a lot of similarities to the material on Endless, as well as some of the experimentation on Blonde. Anyway, the next full length track is called 4D, and it’s really dope. The structure feels way more traditional here than that of any of the other songs. It actually has some semblance of a hook and verse. The lyrics are easier to decipher here too.
My whole life I wanted to be the one people turned to
And thought "oh yeah, this is my turn too"
And this ain't quite the shit I was thinking of
The production and vocal performance is super weird, but I was hooked throughout the entire track, even though it’s one of the longest songs on the album. Nothing here really blows me away like with some of the other tracks, mainly because it doesn’t really feel like he’s doing anything completely new here that he doesn’t do at some other point. It’s still super dope though. I fuck with it. It’s followed by The Lord & Nature, which is the second longest song on the album. zeroh’s vocal performance is a lot more lively and high-pitched on the opening verse here. It’s still hard for me to decipher the lyricism, but he sounds really great here. The way his vocals evolve over the course of the track is really insane. It’s really fucking cool honestly. I do have to admit that I kinda got tired of it by the time the song was over. Since it’s difficult to focus on the lyricism, I was mainly paying attention to the vocal performance, which was nice, but this track honestly has one of my least favorite beats on the album. I don’t think it’s a bad instrumental at all. It’s just nowhere near as interesting as most of the others. I do still like the song though. I think it’s very good. The next track I wanna talk about is Invaluable. This one actually has one of my favorite beats. It sounds like a Hip Hop version of something I’d hear in a Metroid game. The lyrics are even harder to hear on this one than most of the other songs for whatever reason. It’s probably just because of the production to be honest. It really snatches all of your attention, and zeroh’s lowkey vocals make it really difficult to hear what he’s saying. Much like The Lord & Nature, the production doesn’t really switch up at any point, but since the song is about half as long, it’s not nearly as tedious. I think it’s a dope track. The last real highlight for me on the record is called Glory Drip. It’s actually the longest track on the record. The melodic production here is absolutely incredible. It somehow sounds like raindrops too, so I guess the title is fitting. zeroh’s vocal performance borders on whispering, so needless to say, I barely understood a lot of what he was saying, save for a few lines here and there. This actually sounds a lot like a Frank Ocean song to be honest. zeroh’s singing here is amazing. It’s another contender for my favorite track on the album. I’m gonna have trouble choosing just one song. Even though this is the longest track on the record, it doesn’t feel like it’s overstaying its welcome, unlike some of the others. I think it’s an amazing song. The closing song, Aquamane, isn’t one of my favorites, but I do think it’s one of the most interesting. The production kinda reminds me of the instrumental from the opening song on Earl Sweatshirt’s FEET OF CLAY project. Thankfully, the rapping here is actually good lol. The claustrophobic production actually has a really nice rhythm to it despite its weirdness. It actually gave me the coveted involuntary head nod, believe it or not. The percussion is super fucking weird. The electric guitar riffs that come in around the halfway point sound so fucking cool too. The scream at the very end is awesome as well. I think it’s a very good song. There are only three tracks on this album that I don’t care for. The first one is called Mudblood. The bizarre production somehow feels like industrial ambient music, which on paper seems paradoxical. It’s actually a really cool beat. zeroh’s performance just wasn’t enough to keep me interested the whole time. I think if I was able to understand his lyrics I’d like it much more—assuming that they’re actually good, of course. I don’t think it’s a bad song at all. It’s just not something that I’d listen to again personally. That’s also pretty much how I feel about the penultimate track, JAADE. This one has a super chaotic Electronic sounding instrumental. It sounds like something Flying Lotus would’ve made for his ideas+drafts+loops mixtape. It also kinda reminds me of Blu‘s infamous NoYork! album. It’s kind of a cool beat, but after a while it just gets annoying to be honest. I feel like if I was in a bad enough mood this would give me a really bad headache. It’s a decent track though. The only song on the album that I think is legitimately bad is Sworn Free. To be completely honest, I think this one is kinda terrible. It’s just a super cacophonous, dark, industrial instrumental. It sounds like a bunch of distorted guitar riffs over the sound of rain. The piano keys are the one aspect of the song that I actually enjoyed. I appreciate how bizarre and abrasive it is, but it’s just not enjoyable to me at all. I think it’s wack.
Overall, I think this is a very good album. It’s not one of my favorite albums of the year, but I can’t really say that I’m disappointed because it has several of the best songs I’ve heard in 2020. It’s also the weirdest album I’ve heard this year. In fact, it’s one of the weirdest albums I’ve heard period. The only competition it has is SHADI’s You Can’t Hear Me, which honestly might not even be as bizarre as this one. I think my inability to hear and decipher the lyricism definitely prevented me from fully appreciating the record, but I was still able to enjoy it very much sonically. I think the production is fantastic, and zeroh’s vocal performances blew me away on a lot of these songs. If you’re open to abstract Hip Hop and experimentation, do not sleep on this record. I guarantee that it’s one of the most unique albums you will ever hear. It’s dope.