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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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6ix9ine - DUMMY BOY Music Album Reviews

There’s nothing redeeming about Tekashi 6ix9ine’s DUMMY BOY, though he surely wishes there was.

That fame is a drug is a cliché, but for Tekashi 6ix9ine there’s no other explanation. The polarizing, 22-year-old Bushwick, Brooklyn-raised, rainbow-haired rapper spent years desperately searching for a way to catapult himself into the limelight. He horrified the fashion world with a now infamous outfit that displayed the words “Pussy Eater” and “Nigga” on a long black jersey in bold, but that brief virality didn’t pan out. Then, an 18-year-old Tekashi 6ix9ine scratched and clawed for internet cool points by posting a heinous video to Instagram in which he performed sexual acts on a 13-year-old, resulting in a plea deal and years of excuses. Finally, when all other tactics proved to be disastrous failures, he dealt himself to a well-known set of Brooklyn-based Bloods that saw Tekashi as their meal ticket. In exchange, Tekashi viewed this as an opportunity to land the credibility he sought.

Just days before DUMMY BOY was set to be released, Tekashi 6ix9ine’s world started to crumble. At a probation violation hearing, a judge required him to disassociate from all gang members. After popping up on the Breakfast Club radio show to speak about his break from the gang, threats against his life were made, and in an effort to avoid a public act of violence, the FBI rushed a racketeering and firearms charge onto the crew, including Tekashi, who now faces life in prison. His album, DUMMY BOY, first delayed, then leaked, then rushed to release, seems aware of this new reality.

The Tory Lanez-assisted “KIKA” is a blatant effort by Tekashi to clear his name. The track, which seems to have been recorded in recent weeks—indicated by Scott Storch’s low rate rip off of Kodak Black’s “Zeze” instrumental—is Tekashi dipping back into his tiresome gruff-voice screamo flow as he attempts to separate himself: “I do my own shit, fuck all them niggas I used to roll with/I know you used to see me with niggas, but that’s that old shit.” He then implements an instantly stale running joke throughout the album of getting cut off before he is allowed to scream his signature ad-lib and call to the gang, “TR3YWAY!,” like on “KIKA” when Tory Lanez says, “‘It’s fuckin’ Tr-’/Oh wait, I forgot you can’t say that shit.” It’s a facade that Tekashi tries to hold up throughout the album with jokes, but instead it comes across as cries for help.

But a majority of DUMMY BOY isn’t about his impending case, and is mostly the standard fare of Tekashi throwing sounds and flows at the wall, praying something sticks. On “BEBE,” he taps South Florida producer Ronny J—known for speaker-blaring production for Denzel Curry and Lil Pump—to lace him up with a cheap, imitation reggaeton track. On the Lil Baby-featuring “TIC TOC,” Tekashi hops on an instrumental that incorporates an acoustic guitar as he tries to repeat the success stories of “Sold Out Dates” and “Drip Too Hard.” But Tekashi does find himself two relevance-seeking confidants in Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, both of whom appear twice on the album, with Kanye considering his plight on “FEEFA”: “They tried to say I wasn’t black no more/About as black as Macklemore.” The album is deeply reliant on guests—on every song but one—and for an artist who made his name solo (“GUMMO” and “KOODA”), it feels like a self-realization that his ideas are running slim.

Online, there’s no trending “free Tekashi” hashtag and no outpouring of support from the artists and influencers—besides Nicki Minaj—who pretended they were blind as they gladly used up every last bit of his stardom. Uninspired as it is, DUMMY BOY is an album that will have an impact and likely would have done more if he was around to promote it. Yet, it will be known as the moment Tekashi 6ix9ine realized that maybe the fame he’s tirelessly tried to achieve and sustain wasn’t worth it at all.


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