ALBUM REVIEW: Hackle, GUNSMITH THA MIXTAPE
Hackle is a member of the tight-knit Haunted Mound collective, a cult of backwoods dwelling, redneck Cali rappers that have been making huge waves over the last two years. The pandemic, in my opinion, created a cultural reset that allowed exciting voices to come to the fold and build their little cults. The Ion Pack went from a niche Instagram film meme page to full-on podcast and cultural critique force, Playboi Carti built his underground vampire empire Opium, and as it pertains to this review, Haunted Mound really popped off. The appeal of the cities lessened for people, and a group of gun toting, spiked bat clenching young men from Bumblefuck and their distorted sound suddenly became really intriguing. The most prominent member Sematary dropped a fucked up abomination (in a good way) called Rainbow Bridge 2 that was not too dissimilar from something that Lil Peep or Gothboyclique would’ve released in the prime SoundCloud era. A year later, his best and most popular tape Rainbow Bridge 3 caught the attention of critics like The Needle Drop, as well as myself. The most accurate way to describe it is a 3AM Halloween hayride through a burning forest with bass boosted speakers planted throughout playing Chief Keef, Soulja Boy and thrash metal. There are points where the music sounds like it’s literally melting. It’s insane.
But we’re not here to talk about Sematary. Haunted Mound is a group that has different members of varying levels of talent, the second-in-command being Hackle. While Sematary takes a lot of flow and lyrical influence from the Chicago drill scene, Hackle takes more from the early-aughts Atlanta scene, when Brick Squad was at its peak of relevance. His debut project, GUNSMITH THA MIXTAPE, sounds like trap music if the crack spot was the decayed house from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Each passing track is another brutal attack on the listener, with nearly all of them referencing AK-47s, machetes, burials and psychotic behavior. While Sematary and his production were an intertwined force of distortion on Rainbow Bridge 3, there is definitely more of distinction between performer and production on GUNSMITH. On one hand, it makes the music more listenable on a casual level. Cuts like “Nothing” and the ground-pounding “Bakelite” mirror Flockaveli in their excitement, ad-libs and gun worship. On the other hand, the clearness of the vocals exposes how repetitive and uninteresting Hackle’s delivery can be at times.
I’ll just be straight up and say, most of the features here kind of suck. Turnabout and Buckshot really need to step up their game if they’re going to make any sort of impression on their own solo projects going into the future. Their inclusion really does highlight just how much better Sematary and Hackle are, I kind of wish the two of them would just do a full-length tape together. We got a taste of what that might sound like on last year’s “Peterbil”, and we get an even better offering with “Tha Ground”. The chorus from Hackle is melodic (if you can even call it that), swimming well in this bombardment of razor synths and rattling percussion, while Sematary does his demonic thing on the back end.
Generally speaking, Hackle is just between playing single player. I haven’t felt so viscerally excited from rap music all year than I did at the peaks of this record. The overall production style is pummeling, infused with guitars and high squelching synths throughout. When Hackle goes off, as he does on “No Sights”, it’s a pure thrill, “AK-47 IT AIN’T GOT NO SIGHT!!!” Regardless of how many times he talks about guns and knives, he’s still able to filter the violence into memorable choruses on cuts like “Nothing”, “On Tha Mound” and “1 Trillion Bars”. At its best, it paints a spooky and rotting picture of the scene that these young men have created for themselves in Bumblefuck Northern Cali. At its worst, GUNSMITH lags due to a lack of progression, as on “Dumbo”. Regardless of its flaws, this is a welcome addition into this insane catalog this posse is crafting. Great cover by the way.