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Desiigner - L.O.D. EP Music Album Reviews

Desiigner - L.O.D. EP Music Album Reviews
The 21-year-old Kanye West acolyte and Future soundalike tries again to step out of his elders’ shadows on an EP that is unlikely to quiet his critics.

Desiigner’s schtick isn’t just thin—it’s transparent. His biggest hit, “Panda,” isn’t just two years old—it’s also eerily reminiscent of Future’s big hits. His rise wasn’t just meteoric—it was facilitated by Kanye West, a hip-hop visionary and babbling egomaniac whose popularity is currently at its nadir. Still only 21 years old, he’s got an official debut album languishing alongside Tha Carter V and Madvillainy 2 in rap purgatory. In the meantime, the Brooklyn rapper has released L.O.D. (or Life of Desiigner), an EP that is unlikely to quiet his many critics.

Desiigner’s ability to mimic Future’s throaty ululations is simultaneously his greatest gift and his most damning curse. Without that mumbly warble—which can connote pain, pleasure, or the particular pain of nihilistic pleasure-seeking—“Panda” would probably never have dug its claws into West’s malleable pate and ended up on The Life of Pablo. Not sampled so much as reproduced, the song largely escaped Kanye’s jittery, impulsive tinkering. But with West’s co-sign came increased scrutiny; Desiigner’s 2016 mixtape New English garnered lukewarm reviews, with journalists repeatedly calling out his similarities to Future.

To presume that Desiigner is purposely imitating Future would be unfair; his motives remain unknown. But, at the very least, through shared thematic interests as well as biological happenstance, Desiigner is making music that’s conspicuously similar to that of his Atlantan peer. Future does arch-trap-capitalist anthems, libidinous propositions, and tempestuous, sorrowful ballads. On L.O.D., Desiigner attempts the same to uninspiring results.

He checks off all of the basic rap boxes—his voice, his choruses, and his beat selections are fair to middling. It’s the discreet, revealing bits that are severely lacking. “Hood” opens with the intriguing Auto-Tuned salvo “I know niggas getting bodied in their own hood” but too quickly devolves into baffling lines like, “And I live my life right, like a motorcycle/And I don’t recycle/And I am a psycho.” Even “Tonka,” the most enjoyable song on L.O.D., suffers for its lassitude. Rather than inspiring greater intensity on the rapper’s part, the song’s wild, layered backing vocals clash with his listless delivery. Desiigner has a single gear, instrumental be damned.

There are a few moments on L.O.D. when he doesn’t sound like he’s imitating Future—but they neither depart much from his typical formula nor establish him as an artist with much verve or vision. Stripped of the mystique afforded by the Atlanta trap-rap mumble, “Priice Tag” and “LA to NY” are naked in their aimlessness. His repetitive lyrics might as well be a chalkboard gag from “The Simpsons.” Like Bart, Desiigner invests minimal energy in these stultifying exercises.

The rapper’s backstory makes listening to L.O.D. an especially disheartening experience. It feels like Desiigner—who once slept on his family’s carpeted floors in the Bed-Stuy projects, for lack of a bed, and was shot in the hip at 14—has been saddled with all the expectations of a Kanye West protégé without benefiting from any substantive guidance. West and his G.O.O.D. Music associates haven’t displayed much interest in mentoring this artist they plucked from relative obscurity as a teenager. Watching Desiigner get broken on the music industry’s wheel is maddening, because the failures of L.O.D. aren’t his alone—they’re side effects of a star-hungry system that’s unconcerned with the long-term effects of its machinations.

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