Huh, maybe y’all YouTube rappers ain’t too bad after all.
Benjamin Lasky, also known as Quadeca, is an American rapper and YouTuber. With nearly 2 million subscribers racked up, Lasky stopped uploading consistently to focus on music, taking a break from uploading to his main channel for five months before announcing his long-awaited 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶, originally slated to be released on March 18th and later delayed by a couple of weeks.
I was only turned onto Quadeca after the release and subsequent praise of his single “Sisyphus”, a gorgeous, epic, orchestral rap ballad. The gargantuan hits of bass and lows throughout the track mesh beautifully with the background vocals, chords, synth arpeggios, and orchestral instrumentation, and Quadeca’s rapping, writing, and flows are also pretty high-quality. This track’s outro is absolutely stunning -- an incredibly bass-heavy instrumental, ridiculous glitches, electronics, and more fill the airwaves on this song, absolutely blowing me away on first listen and building up my hype for this album exponentially.
However, I still didn’t have very high expectations for 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶, despite “Sisyphus”. I still saw Quadeca as another “YouTube rapper” who could put out some hits but would be challenged to put out a consistently great album, let alone handle nearly every production detail on the album.
Boy oh boy, was I wrong.
𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶 is a gorgeous, creative, impressive, often stunningly-produced behemoth of an album that transcends the YouTube rapper label in pure quality terms. This is not another case of a YouTuber saying “I need to create an album now, since that’s what everyone else is doing”. To be fair, that’s never what Quadeca was, but still, this is on another level. This album raises the bar for YouTube rappers -- it now stands as the gold standard for other YouTubers to reach, and frankly, I think it’ll stay that way for a long time. What a gem.
Before I get into what I loved about this album (a lot), I’m going to get into what I didn’t like as much.
First off, I’m not sure if it’s just my headphones, but I found the mixing on this album to be a little subpar on just a few tracks. For example, on “Shades of Us”, the vocals don’t feel mixed as well as they could be -- sometimes they feel like they’re sitting on top of the track instead of being mixed in with the instrumental perfectly. Another example is on “Maybe Another Day”, which features an instrumental that is mixed just a tad too high, making the vocals get buried a bit. However, this didn’t take away from the album’s experience too much, and even the tracks with these issues are still enjoyable.
Also, the tracklist still does have a few minor misses -- take “Smiling at the Ground”, which has a somewhat annoying synth line and singing on the hook that could’ve been executed just a tad better. However, the flows are great, and the way the electronics fully swallow Quadeca’s rapping at the end, giving way to what sounds like a live piano performance and blemished vocals from Quadeca in a way that reminds me heavily of Weezer’s “Mirror Image”, is really nice. “Can’t You See?”, features a solid falsetto, backed by small hits of bass and large amounts of atmosphere, but the instrumental and vocals on this song are pretty sparse. It feels like very little is going on in this song, and in my opinion, the song should have been built out more either in production or vocals to better create the atmosphere it clearly sets out to create. However, the ratio of misses to hits is still pretty low on this album, and thus it is able to keep its quality despite a few tracks that could have been cut out.
Quadeca does wear his influences on his sleeve on 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶 -- a lot of the performances on this album feel slightly derivative, like the flow on the track “Alone Together”, and the Joji influence (especially) is clear, but it doesn’t take away from the experience at all, and I don’t even know how much I can call it a criticism for that reason.
Finally, this album is just long. At a staggering 18 tracks and nearly an hour, this is a long album, and a somewhat hard-to-digest one at that. Although most of the material is high-quality, I do feel that this album could have been pared down a bit and gained because of it. However, beyond these issues, this is a great record that I enjoyed greatly.
The first thing that struck me about this record was the production. For the most part, it’s stunning. As described earlier, the second track, “Sisyphus”, has amazing production that makes it one of my favorite singles of 2021 so far, and the following “Candles On Fire!” has one of the best beats on the album, vaguely reminiscent of a SATURATION-type instrumental to me. It goes just as hard as the best material from the series too -- the flows are immaculate, and the hook is incredibly catchy. “Maybe Another Day…” has a hard trap beat and a great instrumental, even if it’s mixed a bit high, and a great flow, unique percussion, and subtle vocal pitching that all adds to the track greatly. The album’s interludes also are where the production shines on this album: spoken-word samples about mountains back glitchy, abstract instrumentals that mesh and clash simultaneously, creating a really interesting atmosphere that explodes and glitches.
As touched on in the previous paragraph, Quadeca’s flows are often pretty awesome on 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶. The previously mentioned “Candles On Fire!” is the first example that comes to mind, but the flows all over this album are pretty great. Quadeca also varies up his rapping throughout the album -- sometimes, the rapping is more mellow and less speedy like on “Sisyphus”, and other times, the rapping is fast and impressive, like on one of the hardest tracks on this album, “Burnin Bridges / Long Day”, which also has a great feature from IDK -- the synths and percussion on this song back both Quadeca and IDK amazingly, and IDK’s flows are pretty great and his vocals add some diversity to the track.
𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘔𝘦 𝘛𝘰 𝘠𝘰𝘶’s features are few, but they are all mostly high quality. As described, IDK adds some great diversity to the two-part “Burnin Bridges / Long Day”. The features on this album often serve a similar purpose -- PlayThatBoiZay’s chorus on “Work!” is good, as is Guapdad 4000’s on “People Pleaser”, even if it falls slightly short compared to the album’s other features.
Overall, this album was pretty amazing and took me by surprise! Despite a few issues that I touched on (and spent too much of this review on, frankly), this was a great record that I will definitely find myself coming back to in the near future. I really hope that YouTube rappers show this kind of ambition and high-quality production on their records -- this was stunning, honestly.