SaveMoney is still alive. Two years ago, we were in the final phases of a SaveMoney summer, with impressive drops from Chicago’s Vic Mensa, Brian Fresco, Towkio, and, of course, Joey Purp. Now, two years later and on the onset of fall, Joey Purp is back with his first project since the fabled 2016 mixtape iiiDrops. His newest record, QUARTERTHING, is an album to cut your teeth on, a bar-fest stacked upon enamel-busting bass lines and rumbling experimentation.
In many ways, QUARTERTHING is a worthy successor to iiiDrops, from song titles to an intro that boasts the same pacing and punch as its predecessor. The major growth point, though, is that moving from track to track, Purp brings more tact and attention to how his unique cadence and flow drive his music. iiiDrops established Joey Purp as a leveling rapper with range, one who can batter down the walls while simultaneously conducting a dancing crowd. iiiDrops was painted in broad strokes, and QUARTERTHING finds Purp zeroing in on an exciting and complementary color scheme.
Take “Elastic,” which has the same lax swagger of “Girls @,” with a fresh spring that’s true to the track’s title. Yes, Joey Purp is adept at opening albums—his delivery is naturally blooming and grandiose—but what he has accomplished on QUARTERTHING is a mastery of momentum and pacing. “Elastic” is passively gummy, but it does not slow the album down. Clocking in at two minutes, the track is damn near immune to wear-and-tear and plays as a springboard into the next arc of the project. Joey Purp has evidently taken the last two years to amp up the malleability of his vocals, making each pivot in his delivery engaging without being out of place.
In tandem, the production on QUARTERTHING is ever-more coarse and thoughtful in its arrangement. Layers are subdued and crackling, making even the most casual listen gratifying when we become attuned with a once-unheard spark of sound. There’s a nettling quality to the percussion, too, that emphasizes Purp’s country on each cut. Where Purp’s earlier music trended toward overburdened by horns or outlandish flourishes, at present he’s finding himself reveling in the free space and grit of his soundscapes. On the title track, his vocals rain down as lo-fi sheets of sound, and the whole of the tape turns sandpaper to a sonic playground.
There is a sweltering and becoming current of soul that pads the album. Every gospel and soulful allusion sounds high-stakes and precipice-like (“Godbody Pt. 2”), with Purp himself sounding as if he’s rapping for his life (“Paint Thinner”), as if hip-hop itself could evaporate tomorrow. Hunger and inquisition color and carry QUARTERTHING, and the thunderous quality of Purp’s delivery gives the album an understated weight. Heartbreaking bars about broken families and lives lost are swept up in the searing tenor of Purp’s voice, and only after a few decided head nods do we realize Joey Purp is talking about some real-life shit.
Even so, QUARTERTHING is bombastic in its eccentricities. Much of the project is engrossed in static and sawtooth synths, which sound like they shouldn’t, but absolutely do underscore Purp’s confidence. On the one-two punch of “Paint Thinner” into “Look At My Wrist,” Joey raps like a scrambled speed racer doing donuts at the finish line while the other cars struggle to complete their first lap. The twinkle of nostalgia informing “2012” adds a nice and necessary touch of humanity to the tape’s explosive second third.
The record is littered with bright spots and kickstarts. “Karl Malone” taps into the punk energy pervading hip-hop and amps it with a staccatoed edge and slurred melodies. The song plays like a deranged and out-of-body experience, summoning images of dizzied bodies hitting the floor and seeing stars. RZA’s feature on “Godbody Pt. 2” sounds more like a dooming incantation than a rap verse. “Fessional/Diamonds Dancing” is Joey’s icy and dripping answer to fellow Chicago native Valee. While, for all of its personality, the track appears woefully out of place, it is saved by an excellent and measured Queen Key feature.
Where QUARTERTHING is a shouting project that properly showcases the boom of Joey Purp’s delivery, there are moments where Purp sounds distant to the point of disengaging. The swagger of “Elastic” is lost on “Bag Talk,” which suggests confidence, but more so sounds like someone hollering out of a window: you hear them, but you’d rather do things face-to-face. To be sure, Purp fumbles infrequently and recovers gracefully. Yet, when any project privileges energy, any deviations sound doubly offensive.
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A gratifying and impressive listen, what QUARTERTHING is decidedly missing is narrative. Joey Purp reveals himself to be a phenomenal writer but struggles to bring that skill to a full project. While QUARTERTHING is his personal clinic in mood and tone, Purp still has room to grow.
QUARTERTHING is a landmark moment in Joey Purp’s career, one to frequent but not one to ultimately settle into. Joey Purp’s ultimate time is coming, though, and QUARTERTHING is a seismic jump in the right direction.
Three Standout Songs
“Godbody Pt. 2” ft. RZA
Few rappers can make terror and doom sound as attractive and exciting as Joey Purp. With a RZA feature to boot, “Godbody Pt. 2” is a reminder that Purp’s real-life raps are always cutting, always leveling, and always delivered with more conviction than most rappers have in their entire careers.
Ever since the release of “Girls @,” fans have begged Joey Purp to do it again. “Elastic” is neither sequel nor recreation, but is instead Joey Purp at his subdued-house-best, making infectious and gently rocking tunes.
A breathless bar-fest, “Paint Thinner” is Joey Purp in his shouting and impassioned pocket. Where this cut could easily turn grating, Purp brings an awareness of his energy. He holds listeners over the edge but never lets them tumble down.
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