ALBUM REVIEW: Bladee, The Fool
Last year, we gave Bladee’s EXETER a spot on our Best Albums of the Year list, putting it somewhere in the 40s. Everything from Bladee’s repetitive choruses to the LSD-infused production gave it this hypnotic feeling. It was like having a pocket watch waved in front of my face for 18 minutes. In my opinion, GUD’s odd production style was so new to my ears that it patched up some of Bladee’s flawed vocal work and overly simple lyrics. “EVERY MOMENT SPECIAL” in the hands of a less capable producer would’ve been boring as hell, but GUD’s use of nocturnal soundscapes and magical bloops elevated Bladee to the next level.
Bladee is an interesting rapper and singer in that the quality of his albums have depended almost entirely on his producer. For the drab 333, White Armor gave him a bunch of spare acoustic guitars to riff over, it was like auditory Ambien, putting me to sleep rather than hypnotizing me. At the end of the day, he sounds like a Xaned out Swedish robot, that’s his signature style, but that doesn’t mean his production always needs to be geared toward that. Thankfully, Drain Gang in-house producer Lusi has found success with him going in the opposite direction.
I’ll start with his most recent album, The Fool, which is his best work yet. On this album, Bladee has fully transitioned into the hyperpop sound that so perfectly suits his style. It was only logical for this trending sound to subsume Drain Gang affiliates like him and Ecco2k, the heavy autotune and Internet-electronic beat-work of the collective fits the genre like a glove. Lusi’s production, unlike GUD or White Armor, takes full inspiration from the gabber, MIDI bell and squelching synth laced ‘00s rave music from the likes of Darude, Gigi D’Agostino and Basshunter. Every song here is that, plus trap, which gives the hyperpop sound a modernity that I haven’t really heard before. And of course, like a ghostly Swedish cherry on top, each song is filled with ethereal sound effects like thunder blasts and layers of sonic fog that glues Bladee to Lusi’s beats. Overall, the production is also much cleaner than the lo-fi slurry of EXETER.
Bladee’s songwriting from EXETER has improved by miles. I would’ve never imagined Bladee writing a song as catchy and on point as “Trendy” in a million years, not only is it sweet but it’s chorus is an incredible flex, “we’re not holier than though, but we’re trendier than them”. The verses here are just so tightly knit, even if he’s still just ignoring the concept of rhyming altogether. This is not an anomaly either. “Let’s Ride” has such sharp religious lyricism, “Interning at faith but I just got hired/360 with God and I can't get fired”. The verses get into giving up materialism (as symbolized by a Moncler jacket) and breaking the rebirth cycle and ascending to Nirvana. On the excellent follow up “Hotel Breakfast”, he flexes his wealth but immediately feels hollow as a result. Maybe I’m reading too much into Bladee’s words here, but from what I can tell he is delving head first into some pretty conceptual and existential subject matter and making it sound catchy as fuck. It's like a fuckboy megachurch with marble statues and Anime depictions of saints on stained glass
Even on a basic level, he is fusing religious imagery and rap talk in a way that I’ve never quite heard before. On the rubbery bubblegum bass of “Thee 9 Is Up”, he sings “I'm not Christian but I'm busting down the cross”, and on the gabber filled “Search True”, which has my favorite beat on the record, he sings “Hit 'em with the left-hand stretch 'em, right hand bless 'em”. This is family friendly, lyrical and religious hip-hop without being as cringe as NF and as pretentious as Kanye’s Jesus Is King. Editors Note: Bladee should've been on DONDA). Sure, “I Want It That Way” is unlistenable, and a song like “desiree” is kind of non-essential filler, but the majority of this project is fun, substantive and filled with memorable bars. Bladee has taken the original style that made him a star to begin with and made it HD on The Fool.