Lil Darkie - THIS DOES NOT EXIST

9.3/10

Favorite Track: "THE PAINT WALKING"

Least Favorite Track: "COMPOSITION III IN RED, WHITE, AND BLACK"



As the age of the internet progresses, controversy and the social attention that follows is a heavily underutilized and underappreciated tool. We have collectively seen the massive success that controversial figures such as XXXTentacion and 6ix9ine have garnered from the attention they have amassed, essentially proving the statement “All press is good press” to be true. This constant scrutiny can create some separation of the art from the artist, with public opinion being more centrally focused on the artist as a person and less as a creator of content. In the case of someone like 6ix9ine, the public opinion of his quality as a person and the quality of his music tend to go hand in hand, both sides being hated equally. However, an artist like Tyler, The Creator (pre-Flower Boy) did not tend to have a reputation indicative of his music as nearly every mixtape he released up until Flower Boy was relatively high quality and adored by many people who seceded from public opinion.


The latter example is exactly how I find myself feeling about Lil Darkie, an artist whose image up to this point has been heavily criticized for its potentially offensive and clearly provocative nature. Lil Darkie (aka Joshua Hamilton) originally caught flack for the line “Bitch I’m smoking gas in my chambers like it’s the Holocaust”, on his aptly named song “HOLOCAUST”. This track, while offensive and a bit edgy at points, was super fun upon its release. Darkie’s flows are interesting and he comes through with a ton of personality, the beat goes hard, and any inoriginality claims you could throw at it are essentially negated by Darkie’s hilarious line at the start of the song, where he exclaims “Hey guys, let’s do one of those no-melody songs, that’ll be so creative”. This nonchalant goofiness perfectly sums Darkie up as a character, because at no point in any of his songs do I ever manage to find any sort of malicious intent in the offensiveness, feeling more tongue-in-cheek than intentionally off-putting. However, if you don’t find yourself agreeing with the idea that Darkie isn’t intentionally offensive and you can’t find a lick of enjoyment in his double-edged goofy attitude, you will not enjoy his 2020 release THIS DOES NOT EXIST nearly as much as I did.


Above all else, this LP is hard as nails. There is not a single moment on this record, except for the acoustic ballad “where is darkie?”, where I am not completely enveloped in the aggressive flows and the manic personality Darkie puts forth. From the very first song “rap music”, the listener is completely bombarded by insanely loud production, employing a sort of frantic country-esque guitar sample and roaring 808s. Darkie’s screamed vocals, reminiscent of Soundcloud era XXXTentacion, are quick-fire, showcasing fantastic flows that still blow my mind after fifteen-plus listens of the record. Tracks like “MOVE BECAUSE YOU CAN” and “I AM GONNA STOP DOING DRUGS” are essentially punk tracks, with aggressive guitars taking the forefront to blast out brain-beating power chords. These tracks, while a bit comical at points, never fail to hype me up and provide a punk vibe I would genuinely put on par with some of my favorite acts within the genre. Then we get plenty of more psychedelic trap cuts like “I AM ADDICTED TO DRUGS AND TIRED OF IT” and my personal favorite on the album “THE PAINT WALKING”. These two tracks use lots of piercing synths and earworm flows to create a relentlessly odd but consistently addicting vibe that I cannot get enough of.


The other aspect that consistently surprises and impresses me on this album is Darkie’s very groove-centric, in-the-pocket flows. I have never heard an artist that consistently forgoes similes and instead utilizes the most oddball rhymes possible, sometimes to a fault. There are plenty of points on the record where Darkie is lyrically lacking a bit, which is unfortunately quite typical for people in the underground hip-hop scene. The line “This is an elegy to celery, a tribute to the green/Ride a stick of celery until you cream” leaves me entirely confused and a little disgusted, even if I do enjoy the song it is on. Nonetheless, I find myself not caring about the lyrics more often than not, because the final product sounds remarkably polished and enjoyable. Instead of feeling a need to complain about a lack of lyrical talent present on THIS DOES NOT EXIST, I end up completely agreeing with Darkie when he says “It’s okay for music to not be about anything!” on the closer track.


I really enjoy this project, but I entirely understand the perspective of people who might not. It is loud, experimental, aggressive, a bit edgy, and somewhat offensive at points, but all of this comes through to me as nothing more than a character portrayal. This character is chalk-full of personality and charisma, which is something I am consistently pining for from artists in the underground hip-hop scene. Lil Darkie, while not the most lyrically inventive artist I have heard by any margin, is consistently one of the most sonically interesting and inventive artists of 2020. That is more than enough for me to absolutely adore nearly every facet of this record, and the fact that it wears its flaws on its sleeve so fearlessly only makes it more intriguing and addicting in my eyes.


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