Polo G

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )

Die a Legend (2019), 6.5/10
The Goat (2020), 4.5/10
Hall of Fame (2021), 6/10

Chicago's rapper Taurus "Polo G" Bartlett was in jail when his song Finer Things (2018), half recited and half sung in a funereal tone over an autumnal piano figure, went viral on the Internet. He had already tempered the original "drill" style of his raps and his debut album Die a Legend (Columbia, 2019) made it even more accessible with quasi-ballads such as Pop Out, another classic of melodic trap-rap, and its sequel Pop Out Again (both produced by Dylan "Iceberg" Berg and Joao "JD On Tha Track" Duarte). These two revisit the format of Finer Things, i.e. the dramatic narration over a simple repetitive piano motif, except that here the narrative element is more dramatic due to multiple narrating voices and to a more anxious delivery. The streamlined production helped his articulate, cold, carefully composed stories, a documentary, hagiographic rendition of life in the trenches of the black ghetto, delivered in a melancholy sing-rapping style, a cross between Drake and a yodeling country singer. The rap in Effortless (also over a piano refrain but adding a beat by Eric "Sonic" Sandoval) is even more frantic and tormented. Instead, Through da Storm (one of the eight songs produced by the 19-year-old Jahmere "Ayo" Tylon) couples the angst-ridden rigmarole with a primitive beat and a hypnotic marimba-like sequence. Polo G's panting rap is sustained by a complex beat architected by the Superiors (the duo of Sidney and Javon Reynolds), the Priority Beats (the duo of Ashley and Dericco Peck) and Detric "Detrakz" Jackson in Lost Files. Musically, Battle Cry (arranged by Jordan "JTK" Knight and Ayo) may offer the most intriguing sound, a discreet accompaniment of violin, synth, piano and beat-box. Lyrically, A King's Nightmare (over another Ayo beat) is probably the best summary of Bartlett's daily hell. The substandard beats somehow don't detract from the atmosphere the way some over-produced beats detract from the atmosphere in albums by pop stars. This album represents the melodic side of trap, only thematically related to the trap of Chief Keef, or, better, a step of emo-rap towards the world of rock singer-songwriters.

The Goat (2020) was an album of filler.

The 20-song Hall of Fame (2021) contains the hit singles Rapstar (over a trap beat created by trap songwriter Shane Lindstrom, ukulele player Einer Bankz and producer Synco) and Epidemic, with another prominent piano motif and a floating female voice in the background (another large operation involving producers Tahj "Money" Vaughn, David "D Mac" McDowell, Sterling "LondnBlue" Reynolds and Karltin Bankz, as well as songwriter Lukas Payne). Polo G's tirades are less visceral than on the debut album but the producers are skilled at using harmless snippets as sonic weapons. For example, they obtain great effects out of castrated guitar riffs, like in Party Life (produced by Ben Billions, David Mescon and Terrence Rolle), Black Hearted (produced by Aiden Han and "Damn Mikey") and Broken Guitars (produced by WizardMCE and Daniel Magnusson). The album is a monotonous parade of the same beat (slight variations on a four-bar loop), and so the producers really work as arrangers, shaping the sound beyond the merits of the beats: Gang Gang, a duet with Lil Wayne, is exotically produced by Angelo Ferraro; and Michael "12Hunna" O'Brien concocts a chaotic soundscape for Boom. There are cinematic numbers like GNF (courtesy of Swedish producers WizardMCE and Varohl) and the almost Morricone-ian closer Bloody Canvas (WizardMCE and the 19-year-old Daniel "Kid Culture" Hackett), possibly the most atmospheric song of the album and almost a crime story. No Return (produced by Danny "Taz Taylor" Snodgrass, Ryder Johnson and Mason Wu) balances the frenzied delivery (including two fellow rappers, male and female) with a hypnotic interplay of violin and piano, and matches, if not surpasses, the pathos of Epidemic. The album could have been trimmed down to ten or 12 songs without losing much.

(Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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