‘Mudboy’ by Sheck Wes Album Review: Don’t Write Off This Pure Energy Rap
I was sitting on a bench in Harlem waiting for the train when Mudboy released. The guy next to me, Scofie, had just asked if I’d ever been to Togo, where he was from. He didn’t know where he was going and started talking to me. Now, I’ve never been to Africa, I’m probably never going to. I know that.
I know that rap is undoubtedly in its punk phase. I’m not sure where Harlem rapper Sheck Wes fits in with Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone after his African exile, but he’s pure energy. He’s everything Desiigner was supposed to be.
While a mumble rapper whose biggest song was made in 20 minutes doesn’t sound like a guy you’d want a 49-minute album from, it’s not a bad one. He somehow took that 20 minutes and made a song called “Mo Bamba” more famous than the actual Mo Bamba, his high school teammate and the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
The album starts with “Mindfucker” and a heavy atmosphere. I think it’s a Travis Scott beat, Sheck is ten deep, and hunting someone down while hi-hats bounce up and down. He’s signed to Scott’s Cactus Jack records and lets the beat run for over a minute before he even starts mumbling. It’s a bold move, like Earl Sweatshirt letting SK LaFlame open up his 2012 debut album, Doris, with the worst sixteen bars I’ve ever heard. And even with Earl having a 26-minute self-titled mixtape out it was considered a risk. The thing about “Mudboy” is it’s the first real debut album for a rapper in a while. Wes doesn’t have three mixtapes or four independent albums under his belt like Lil Uzi Vert or Kendrick Lamar.
This album is pure energy. Songs like “Live Sheck Wes” and “Fuck Everybody” are riot music. I don’t know where he’s finding his producers but they should be the next Ronny J or Metro Boomin. “Gmail” should blow up like “Mo Bamba” despite it being just an 8-bit video game loop that Wes raps on as if he’s off of angel dust. If Sheck Wes was a basketball player he’d be Derrick Rose and I’m not sure if my speakers or his career are going to be D-Rose’s knees.
And the sad thing is, he’ll be written off as a joke. Playboi Carti, probably the biggest NY-based mumble rapper, has been nothing but garbage lyrically on his albums. Sheck Wes has really interesting song structure and beat switches throughout “Mudboy.” He’s the first artist I’ve seen in a long time to use an interlude correctly. Yeah, some songs can definitely be cut. But after 48 minutes, I know more than Sheck Wes, his basketball career he gave up to rap, how he was sent away to Africa at 16, and all the NY and Harlem history he knows than I do about Travis Scott from any of his three albums or two mixtapes. And those bored me. Is Sheck Wes a talented, thoughtful artist? Am I interested to see where his next album goes? Will JR Smith do something stupid this season? Yeah, for sure.
Listen to “Vetements Socks” and tell me Sheck Wes isn’t an artist that can’t develop into some huge. He sounds like a mix of A$AP Ferg and Lil B. I don’t think he should be concerned about a follow up mixtape in six months, he enough of a personality to stay around and at only 20 years old he’s still got time to really develop. One of the biggest issues with rap has always been putting great songs into great albums. Sheck Wes already has the structure of an album down. He can make great songs. And in due time, he’ll learn to cut his clutter. He’s a fresh sound. He’s actually got something to say. Sheck Wes might be written off as a joke in the fast paced rap scene of 2018. But he’s a bright spot for NY rap, the natural progression of A$AP Mob when Miami rap is growing each day.