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IAMDDB - Swervvvvv.5 Music Album Reviews

On her supposedly final mixtape before she issues her full-length debut, the “urban jazz” rapper and singer adds intrigue with bits of her backstory and elliptical flourishes.

The Manchester rapper and singer IAMDDB began earning attention in 2016 thanks to a sequence of mixtapes that hinged as much on her brash, stoned personality as their jazzy perspective on hip-hop and R&B hybrids. Swinging from honeyed pop-soul to menacing trap, the freewheeling mixtapes secured IAMDDB an opening spot on Lauryn Hill’s British comeback tour, a choice co-sign ahead of the final part of IAMDDB’s mixtape series, Swervvvvv.5. A hazy, laid-back set of jazz-trap that lets her talk her shit while tinkering with structures suitable for an imminent full-length, it is easily her best effort yet.

Clouded by weed smoke and rattled by punch-drunk production from London’s Drae Da Skimask, Swervvvvv.5 is cheerful and reckless, dripping with unruffled charisma. On the glitchy “Urban Jazz,” named for the tag she’s given her sound, she scoffs “Paradise is what I am/But I gotta have a spliff before” with a nonchalant flow over background vocals that seem to echo through smoke. Such harmonies take on a crucial role across Swervvvvv.5, reaching high points on the velvety, introspective R&B cut “Give Me Something” and the neo-soul-indebted “Diary Entries.” Adding atmosphere, they reveal an experimental touch beneath IAMDDB’s warm, mellifluous vocal tics and production choices—a suggestion of what may be to come.

Toward the middle, Swervvvvv.5 turns to the club with “Asss$,” a sloshed version of pop-trap with a rote, Cardi B-lite chorus that feels like a hangover headache by the third time around. The song lingers in the shadow of “Sweg,” the bloodshot, grimily superior kiss-off that precedes it. Under a thick blanket of deep bass and ominous keys, IAMDDB cuts men down to size: “You broke niggas make me sick/Sloppy toppy for the kid,” she spits with an audible sneer. “Miss your magnificent dick/No more talking, straight licks/Lower that shit, never miss.”

For the first time in this mixtape series, IAMDDB splits the sequence with an intro, outro, and two interludes, some of which call to mind the flat, navel-gazing intermissions on Ella Mai’s debut. But IAMDDB’s waggish personality is more engaging. She’s funny and unbothered throughout, sounding like Jorja Smith on a peppy sativa as she runs through an endearing laundry list of thank-yous during “Introlude” or inexplicably bickers with an automaton on the futurist-minded “Space Break Interlude.”

The freeform, smoky vibe and percussive thrust of Swervvvvv.5 owe in part to a six-month period when IAMDDB studied jazz in Angola alongside her touring musician father, an influence she touts with pride. She references her Angolan-Portuguese ancestry on “Space Break Interlude” and raps in fluent Portuguese during “Urban Jazz” and the balmy “I’m Home.” These surprises dot the mixtape with dynamic new displays of her personality and past. The move makes her assurance on the outro—that she’s now in album mode—even more enticing. Based on the woozily accomplished Swervvvvv.5, IAMDDB is only getting sharper.

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