Anarchy in hip-hop—and more specifically trap music—can take several forms. From a drill pioneer like Chief Keef to the auteurist musical vigilante known as Young Thug—excuse me, SEX—there is something special about an artist who is able to tap into an unearthed and unshackled sound and perspective, transforming the way we listen to and process structureless hip-hop.
Serving up the latest reminder there are no rules, and bringing his own brand of anarchy to the forefront, is Valee, a Chicago rapper who recently signed a recording contract with Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music and Def Jam.
Valee isn't a ghost on Google, but he is a mysterious figure. Over the last two years, the 28-year-old has released four mixtapes worth of material, most of which are quick and concise records that barely clock in over two minutes. Yet, what Valee's music lacks in runtime, it more than makes up for in creativity.
His debut EP, and the project that will formally introduce him to the mainstream, GOOD Job, You Found Me, is as clever and interesting as its title, but the project is an imperfect work of art.
Below are four key takeaways after listening to the EP, on repeat, for the past four days.
Valee has a mesmerizingly unorthodox style
Before pressing play, it's important that you know you’re bound to miss some of what Valee hopes to accomplish on the EP unless he has your full and undivided attention. His vocals are silent but deadly, and his cadence is often as delicate. Listening to Valee feels like watching a Vine, with an almost frustrating conciseness that shackles the listener to repeat listens just to contextualize what they just heard.
In terms of his bar structure, Valee seemingly bends time and space at his will, with tracks like “I Got Whatever” and “Vlone” proving the Chicago emcee isn’t interested in the banality of extra words or rhymes. His style is uncompromising to the unprepared listener, with each track finding Valee setting out to prove he can paint the same pictures as everyone else but with significantly fewer brushstrokes.
The EP is, ironically, too short
With none of the EP's six tracks clocking in at over three minutes, you could literally finish listening to GOOD Job, You Found Me while driving to the gas station or making lunch—without skipping a single track. As much as it is a quintessential component of Valee’s creativity to be relentlessly brief, the EP feels like it’s only getting started by the time it comes to an end.
Additionally, half the tracklist (“Miami,” “I Got Whatever,” and “Shell”) was released prior to the EP, with all three songs debuting on a previous Valee mixtape. While most listeners won’t be familiar with his complete back catalog, for an artist clearly willing to hone his craft with unbridled experiential experimentation, recycling material feels like a missed opportunity.
Valee knows how to make engaging songs
Regardless of length, or even his approach to making music, Valee understands how to craft a potential hit single. Each and every track, save for “Skinny,” the weakest link on the EP, strikes a separate, more appealing nerve than the one before it, and amplifies the anarchic methods of Valee’s music.
The project’s opener, “Juice and Gin,” pairs haunting, muted production by Rio Mac, which slowly builds in the background, with effortlessly smooth lines about buying his mom a “sawed off,” and rhyme schemes that pour over into each other without warning. On the previously cited “I Got Whatever” and “Vlone,” Valee utilizes more space than NASA between rhymes, and yet every word he utters hits its intended mark.
The EP's lead single, "Miami," feels hypnotic in its unconventional approach, so much so that we're treated to a verse from G.O.O.D Music president Pusha T that attempts only to embrace the song's unique structure. Even “Shell,” the project’s self-produced closer, showcases Valee’s ability to quickly unearth catchy choruses and memorable one-liners in the span of two minutes.
Valee is not an easy sell
GOOD Job, You Found Me is not an EP that will satisfy, or even engage, the average listener. At its core, this is avant-garde trap music. While the production is solid throughout, the brevity and pace of the project mirror the feeling of walking in on a TV show halfway through but still being somewhat confused even after hitting rewind.
Valee has the talent, and now the label backing, to develop into a truly remarkable artist. If listeners take to his particular anarchic aesthetic before his introductory project abruptly ends, it's likely they'll come to the same conclusion.