Sheck Wes is a man of presence. He carries the alluring energy of someone who was born to be seen, heard, and felt. The Harlem, New York-born hip-hop newcomer has already made a memorable splash with his breakout single “Mo Bamba,” one of the most infectious singles to takeover 2018. From ESPN to Eastside Atlanta, the ground-shaking single has propelled Wes like a rocket soaring above the clouds.
Being signed to a joint record deal with Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Records and Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music underneath the Interscope umbrella means having the support of two major players who have left their mark on the industry. If Sheck Wes is able to harness the captivating qualities of “Mo Bamba” and reproduce them over the length of his first album, there’s no telling the kind of impact that will follow the 20-year-old star in the making.
MUDBOY, the debut album from Wes, comes with anticipation. Can he live up to the hype that has quickly surrounded him? He has the charisma and charm to talk like a champion, but is MUDBOY the game-winner that will solidify the arrival of an undeniable star?
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Menacing. The album opens with such a heavy atmosphere. Firecracker drums. It’s the kind of buildup that sends an ice cream chill down your spine. “Bitch” is the first audible word heard on the album. The drums are showing out but I’m confused by the lack of rapping. He’s mumbling. Literally mumbling to himself. Mumble rap has a new poster child. Wait, here he is. His flow reminds me of a discount version of Valee. Good voice, but his delivery could be smoother. “Listen to the kids, stop being hardheaded." This picked up at the end. Strange intro. I expected something far more punchy and energetic. The production is still holding me but not much else to revisit here.
2. "Live Sheck Wes"
That ping sounds like I just received a Google alert. There’s a lot more power in his voice. This is going to be a Leviathan. What a drop! He cannonballed into the beat. Monstrous. I want to punch a grizzly bear. Make that two grizzly bears and a crocodile. I need an accurate account of how many bar fights have been started by this record. Riot music. The music Simba played to overthrow Scar from Pride Rock. “Everything is negative.” This is the energy that will take Sheck to the next level. Lil Jon needs to drop ad-libs. Sheck Wes is giving me flashbacks of rap’s crunk era. All madness and aggression. “GANG GANG GANG.”
If Wayne is a martian, Sheck Wes is a mammoth. “Sheck Jesus.” Who produced this? [Editor's Note: Yunglunchbox] It sounds like an 8-bit video game loop. The bassline could be a convicted felon. This is disgusting in the best possible way. Sheck has the production down. Sonically, he sounds as if he recorded this underneath his bed with all the monsters. I like it. Sheck Wes might be the evolved version of Bobby Shmurda. Both are charismatic, influenced by modern trap, and were able to make these larger-than-life bangers. Wes' music is much dirtier. This record is filthy, but it’s easy for the beat to drown him out. THE BASS THAT JUST GOT HERE. Man, this is Godzilla committing home invasion.
Four tracks in and the production is carrying the album. I’m hoping to hear Sheck shine a bit more, but based on the opening here, I don’t know if this will be the record. Not the hardest knock. “I like bad hoes, they like me back,” I laughed. The flow reminds me a bit of Key! I like this hook, a lot, and how the bass and drums really match his voice. “Like I got asthma can’t never leave the pump.” Tyler, The Creator is upset he didn't think of the asthma bar first. I was wrong, this is a solid record. Wes showed up. How he belches these bars is really what carves into you. It's not so much what he says, but how he says it. It’s something that Travis does well, too. I’m pretty sure Master P wishes he discovered Sheck first. Imagine Sheck as the artist who resurrected No Limit.
5. "Chippi Chippi"
I believe “Chippi Chippi” was a single, but it’s still new to me. Digging the tempo. It’s a spooky beat. Three 6 Mafia would have loved to rap over this back in 1998. Sheck is doing a whisper-flow and I haven’t decided if I like it. I wonder what rapper has the best inside voice. If a beat could inspire a nightmare, “Chippi Chippi” would give bad dreams. He just shouted out Whitney Houston. There are a couple of lines that jump out, but he lost me by the end. I’m not returning to this one. If energy is Sheck’s selling point, rapping like the booth is a library isn’t the best course of action.
6. "Never Lost"
Let’s see where this one is going. Another production beast. The bassline made the hair on my arms stand up. Its boom is thunderous but the beat is moving at a gradual pace. I wish the tempo was neck-breaking. Why is Sheck doing this whisper-singing? Where is the lightning to the beat's thunder? Okay, what the song is supposed to represent is interesting but this execution is killing me. He switched gears and now we are taking off. What a beat! This is hitting harder than being kicked in the face by a Timberland boot. The amount of repetition in the verses, though, is getting tired. Wakanda bars. I’m so conflicted. I don’t want to skip this beat, but he isn’t holding my interest. It’s like anthems that fall short of being anthemic.
Four minutes is a long time for a Sheck Wes song. I wish what rappers stole from Valee is his brevity instead of his delivery. I hope Sheck is paying all of his producers because this album has been slapper after slapper. Did he just say he has a Backwoods addiction? “In school, I didn’t pay attention.” He’s reminiscing on the days of watching ESPN instead of going to school. Pretty bored. I don’t understand Sheck’s delivery and cadence. Why is he rapping as if he has Wiz Khalifa’s voice? There are certain vocal textures that fit the type of flows and deliveries he’s attempting to pull off and they aren’t moving. He’s turning up. I'd rather Sheck Wes yell at me like I’m on punishment then whisper to me like he’s making music for the quiet storm. Skip.
Hmm. A beat that hits hard enough to blow off Trump’s toupee. Basketball references galore. Rap songs inspired by basketball players is a topic we've covered around these parts. The beat is the brown ring around a dirty bathtub. Sheck is far more alluring here. I’m uninterested in the subject matter, but I can see this one being big. With basketball season returning, it’s the perfect time to give this record a push. The breakdown is terrifying. Why isn’t A$AP Rocky getting these beats? Crazy.
9. “Mo Bamba”
Without question “Mo Bamba” is one of the biggest records I’ve heard all year. It’s an adrenaline shot. The only reaction is to lose your entire mind for the entire three minutes. During A3C, while hanging out with Jinx, I was introduced to Rembert Browne while “Mo Bamba” played. This song will always be connected to a pretty great moment. Sorry, back to the record. I wish the energy that explodes across the second verse appeared throughout this entire album. If Sheck Wes committed to making an album full of songs for gym playlists, I wouldn’t be mad. Actually, I would go out and get a gym membership.
10. “Burn Slow (Interlude)”
Why is an interlude three minutes? Wes isn’t a toe-toucher. I like how he’s approaching this one. Eh, and he lost me again. Whenever he takes these pauses to mumble through tracks I immediately become uninterested. He’s sleepwalking through some of these verses and it’s causing me waves of fatigue. Sheck is far too interesting and explosive an artist for me to be thinking about a pillow while he raps.
11. “Jiggy On The Shits”
WOO! The filth. This beat sounds like the black underneath a mechanic's fingernail. We have a winner. All the parts are working here. And...he just ruined it. Sheck needs an editor. There’s no reason to mumble after hitting the one-minute mark. Why did he suddenly stop being audible? Oh, he switched the language up. I’m not sure what the hell he was saying. “Switch it up come back to English.” That was the most random rap switch-up of 2018. He missed an easy lay-up. “Jiggy On The Shits” should’ve been an easy bucket. MUDBOY is shaping up to be a great gameplan with very few points scored.
12. “Fuck Everybody”
We have entered the Twilight Zone. I’m seeing zombies, goblins, and ghouls. These synths are making for such a great buildup. Sheck sounds like he’s about to shoot up the moon. This is rager music. If these drums drop right we could have a fight anthem. Not the drop I wanted, but this beat has the spirit of 1,000 stampeding rhinos. It’s a giant middle finger. He just said fuck school and 12. My ears are shaking. The beat really is a monster. So daunting. The electric guitar chords are adding another layer of menacing. Play the beat at Fright Fest.
How old is Sheck? To have a song called "Danimals" is so funny. Do they even make Danimals anymore? I can’t wait to buy them for my niece and eat them while she sleeps. What the hell is going on here? I’m ready to stop the album every time he starts whispering. It’s just not working, man. “Yogurt colored coupe” is my favorite part of the song next to the title. A boring skip.
14. “Vetements Socks”
If Michael Jackson came back from the dead and performed the "Thriller" dance routine, I'd sub in this beat. It has a fresh-out-the-casket vibe. Haymaker production and magnetic flow. I feel like Lil B and 50 Tyson have inspired a lot of rappers. HE’S FINALLY GIVING ME LIFE. Man, he really waited until the very last track to find the fire. He’s burning it down. “I was out in Africa living Fear Factor.” I don’t know what this means but it's working. What a beat. One of my favorites from the album. Keeper.
Final (first listen) thoughts on MUDBOY:
Sheck Wes has figured out his sound, but not the formula for what makes him enjoyable. MUDBOY has far too many stumbles and missteps to make it a worthwhile debut. For such a big moment, I expected Sheck to give the people an album to talk about. Yet, what he actually delivered was an album to forget. Only a handful of the album's 14 tracks are striking enough to be remembered and replayed beyond the first listen.
At the beginning of this review, I called Sheck Wes a man of presence, and the best parts of MUDBOY are when the Harlem rapper raps with the lungs of giants and thrashes like he wants to tear up the club. I also mentioned the crunk era, but really, I was secretly hoping for MUDBOY to be to 2018 what Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli was to 2010. Flocka is the perfect example of how rambunctious production and simplistic yet disorderly lyricism can meet in the perfect middle.
There’s a chance that Sheck Wes will see another successful single rise from MUDBOY, perhaps "Kyrie," but by this time next week, the conversation surrounding this album will likely be over. Instead of enjoying good songs, we only see flashes of good ideas. Both MUDBOY and Sheck Wes failed to live up to their potential greatness.
By Yoh, aka Yoh Bamba, aka @Yoh31
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