Favorite Track: "No Option (feat. Kevin Gates)”
Least Favorite Track: "“Thrusting (feat. Swae Lee & Future)”
In my opinion the hip hop production collective, Internet Money, is the perfect example to use when describing the state of the modern music industry. They embody the very essence of the dream that millions of young hip hop producers all over the world hold so closely. In many ways they serve as a glimmering beacon of hope to thousands of these kids, a figure whispering “if we did it, you can too”. Young adults becoming multi-millionaires from posting type-beats to Youtube is becoming less and less of an anomaly. A rags to riches story gives music draw and impact like few things can, and that's part of the reason why Internet Money’s debut studio album, B4 The Storm, has left such an impact on me. It reminds me and many others that anything is possible, and that you really can achieve your dreams.
Twenty-eight year old Taz Taylor was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Struggling with the financial obligation of the declining health of his mother, he desperately turned to selling hip hop beats online to pay her hospital bills as she battled cancer. Little did he know that what he was doing would turn into a multi-million dollar record label and production company that would take the industry by storm. This record executive began as the underdog, simply trying to prove his place in a large, intimidating, and often-confusing industry. Now that he has, his debut collaborative album serves to help fellow underdogs from all corners of the music industry prove their place. Names like TyFontaine, Cochise, and lilspirit, aren’t well known, but here they are given the opportunity to appear along the likes of Future, Wiz Khalifa, and Swae Lee. More often than not they take advantage of the opportunity.
This huge range of artists comprising B4 The Storm’s lineup are a gigantic part of what makes the album so interesting. Oftentimes, the underdogs steal the show; but nonetheless the bigger names provide some solid performances and notable moments within these seventeen tracks. Moments like The Kid LAROI’s “Speak” (produced by Rio Levya, Taz Taylor, Cxdy, and Nico Baran), that show off the collectives spacey, hard hitting, and psychedelic trap production, seem so particularly catered to the crop of artists that make up this album’s feature list. So much so that sometimes older names sound out of place on these types of emo-trap beats. They sound so tailored to the world of 2017 Soundcloud that they make Future and Wiz Khalifa sound dated. This is where Internet Money shines brightest. The world of FL Studio livestreams, and emo-rap bangers, is where they are most in their element. Their influence in this scene has been widespread, providing inspiration to not only thousands of young producers, but also the rappers that so uniquely emulate this sound. Names like Juice WRLD, Trippie Redd, and Lil Skies have given this scene their entrance into the mainstream, but Internet Money has arisen with the underground talent that already emulates those artists, despite their careers still being so new.
Even when Taylor, Mira, Cxdy, and company venture outside of this emo-trap world, they tend to thrive. They excel at taking jaded and overused trap soundscapes, and flipping them on their heads in ways that are exclusively unique to their tastes. Take for example B4 The Storm’s intro cut; “Message (feat. TyFontaine)” (produced by Rio Levya, Taz Taylor, and Neek). The booming 808’s are still here, along with claps and thin hi-hats, but the main melodic element consists of something totally left-field to anything trap music related: a lead synthesizer melody that sounds straight out of an EDM track. Internet Money’s own TyFontaine (who signed with their label earlier this year), has a pretty solid performance here as well. He’s energetic, hard-hitting, and his quickfire flow makes the track moshpit ready. There are moments where he wears his Playboi Carti influences a little too obviously on his sleeves, but the track's memorable production makes up for this tenfold.
The dichotomy of weak verses saved by stellar production does show up a few times during this album’s tracklist, but the moments between the highlights are still mostly fun, and at the very least sufficient. Interestingly, I find that this project’s worst moment does come when Internet Money sacrifices their original sound for something a little older and more radio-ready. “Thrusting” (ft. Future and Swae Lee) (produced by Taz Taylor, Nick Mira, Rio Levya, Cxdy, Resource, Jasper Harris, and ProdbyNash) is a pretty revealing moment on the album. These two artists have consistently been some of my least favorite hip hop artists for years, so I fully anticipated that this track wouldn’t be for me. However, their extremely poor performance proves that Internet Money is so in touch with the youth that their production is much less fitting for older artists. Not that Future and Swae lee are old but they sound awful over this beat, whereas I could see someone like lilspirit sounding beautiful over it. This sentiment is reinforced by Wiz Khalifa’s weak performance on “Take It Slow” (produced by Taz Taylor, Rio Levya, Cxdy, DT, and Spaceman) where 24kGoldn easily outshines him. Artists like the seventeen year old Kid LAROI, eighteen year old TheHxliday, and eighteen year old Lil Mosey, consistently provide this project with some of its best moments. I would argue that the only performance from an artist older than thirty that rivals that of a “JLO (feat. Lil Tecca)” (produced by Taz Taylor & Nick Mira), or a “Devastated (feat. lilspirit)” (produced by Nick Mira, Taz Taylor & Alec Wigdahl), is “No Option (feat. Kevin Gates)” (produced by KC Supreme, Taz Taylor, & mjNichols).
“No Option” is easily my favorite song on B4 The Storm. Kevin Gates sounds as motivational as ever spitting over guitars and pianos longing for prison reform. The instrumental here is understated, allowing Kevin’s deep, booming, voice to truly take center stage. His singing sounds better than it ever has, speaking to my core deeply and emotionally, as Gates refuses to be silenced. This is just one example of Internet Money bringing the absolute best out of an artist, something that they are consistently great at. As a whole, B4 The Storm can occasionally feel like a mixed bag, which is something to be expected given the project's collaborative nature. It would be hard for an album with this many contributors to produce an entire tracklist that would completely appeal to all listeners. Barely anybody is going to like every single artist on the album. However, I find that the moments between the plethora of highlights are seldom impossible to sit through by virtue of the one thing they all have in common: their impressive production.