Lil Darkie - SWAMP

8.3/10

Favorite Track: "BACK IN LONG BEACH" Least Favorite Track: "FRIED EGG"



Twenty-two year old rapper Lil Darkie has had a prolific and productive 2020. To kick things off, he released his debut studio album THIS DOES NOT EXIST on New Year’s Day, a fantastic work of experimental hip-hop songs that absolutely astounded fans both new and old away. The sheer level of aggression and volume this record brought to the table was intriguing, but definitely not for everyone. He then released YIN, a much smoother and more palatable work, while still retaining the fun aggression that made TDNE so interesting. In August, Darkie release Lil Darkie Classics, a brash yet simple compilation release of old SoundCloud tracks that managed to work quite well as a cohesive project. On top of the three albums, Darkie released a total of twenty-four singles (not for albums or projects). Once the year-end list season began rolling around, it seemed as though Darkie was tapping out for the year, but on Christmas Day, he surprised his fans with one last body of work: SWAMP.


In the greater context of Lil Darkie’s discography, SWAMP works as an anomaly in concept and sound. None of Darkie’s past records have followed a theme, instead priding themselves on being able to provide large amounts of relentless bangers, ultimately leaving the listener dumbstruck by the end. However, SWAMP seems to run a relatively simple concept. The record starts off with the title track, where Darkie proclaims that “The Swamp doesn’t drain” before screaming “I have allowed this shit to build up for too long!”. He then explodes into a long-winded verse filled with unfiltered rage, waxing on everything from his drug use to his depression, including a healthy helping of political apathy and anger to boot. When the song ends, the realization begins to hit the listener that “The Swamp” Darkie is mentioning isn’t an abstract story filled with descriptive scenery and exposition. Rather, it is a comprehensive exploration of the psyche of one of hip-hop’s most polarizing figures.


In general, SWAMP sees Darkie at the top of his lyrical game, taking things within the world that he is acutely dissatisfied with and exploring them in a mature, albeit goofy, and tongue-in-cheek way. The track “ROBOT” is a glaring example, with the somewhat mechanical and clunky beat laying a bed for Darkie to explore the way humans are enslaved to technology. The lines themselves are often funny, but the light-hearted humor Darkie raps with highlights the rediculous technological addictions he aims to explore with the track. The entire narrative of the song is summed up perfectly by its last three lines, where Darkie shows off his hilarious defeatist humor with the lyrics “I’ve become a better me/Cybernetically/Oh, we’re fucked.”


Much of the record also showcases Darkie taking a bit of an instrumental turn as well, embracing trap-metal aesthetics and instrumentals on tracks like “COMFORT IN DISCOMFORT” and the bluntly named “SOUND OF GRINDING A POLITICIAN’S SKULL INTO A FINE POWDER”. Both these tracks are over seven minutes long and are multi-phased into oblivion, and for every beat change and feel switch, Darkie matches his energy to compliment them perfectly. “BACK IN LONG BEACH” takes a much different approach, utilizing a sweet but somber guitar lick and equally fantastic and melodic contributions from Cxrpse and BRUHMANEGOD. Lyrically, this song is an interesting peek into the past of Darkie and his contemporaries, with the chorus explaining: “I remember back in Long Beach sitting in the crib/Everybody down bad, never on shit/A ni**a wanna leave, but nobody got a whip/Spent the summertime sad, it was hotter than a bitch”.

Despite the high points SWAMP boasts, it never reaches the astonishingly high peaks of THIS DOES NOT EXIST. There are a lot of points where the twenty-two track album runs a tad long, with some tracks overstaying their welcome. Cuts like “P.I.G.G.Y” and “DARKIE CAN RAP” feel like they would have been much better off as independent singles. However, it is quite hard to fault this album at large, due to its meticulously incredible craft. The concept is tight, the lyricism and beat selection is quite solid, and apart from a few lulls in the tracklist, Darkie manages to make a remarkably large album feel surprisingly consistent and engaging.


The fact that this is the fourth record Darkie has released this year is astonishing, because it never feels as though he is scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. Instead, there are still new ideas flowing from the swamp, and it seems as though this is Darkie’s most realized and consistent project yet, with even the duds of the tracklist not deteriorating the album’s quality too much. Many of the offensive and brash personality traits of Darkie’s past records are still present on SWAMP, but this album provides a deeper dive into his character and even begins to give the listener an idea of where the line between Lil Darkie and his creator Joshua Hamilton lies.

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