While Sheck Wes’ debut Mudboy ushers in a new wave of punk-trap music, it fails to deliver on the high expectations set by its groundbreaking singles.
“Mo Bamba” was described by Interscope Records A&R Sickamore as this generation’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It is a bombastic, melodic-yet-corrosive record that many listeners, at first, love to hate but eventually, hate to love. The 20-year-old Harlem rapper showed promise on this track with his unique moans and catchy ad-libs, turning it into a sleeper hit a year after its initial summer 2017 release.
A co-sign by now-mainstream rapper Travis Scott and a record deal with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music shoehorned the young rapper into the spotlight this year. As “Mo Bamba” continued to soar in popularity, Sheck Wes followed it with singles such as “Live Sheck Wes” and “Chippi Chippi,” retaining the electrifying energy of their predecessor but failing to make a similar impact.
The singles employed a similar formula to that used in “Mo Bamba” with their never-ending motifs and aggressive display of Sheck Wes’ distinctive personality; this already began diminishing his novelty, however, as listening to each song started to feel like a chore. Sheck Wes seems to use these annoying synths, constant ad-libs and high-energy vocals on every track.
This tendency to cut and paste ideas reflects poorly in his full-length effort Mudboy, released by Interscope, G.O.O.D. Music and Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack Records. While many tracks on the album might effectively accompany an intense workout, they do not offer much more replay value as party songs or otherwise.
In a group setting, a repetitive trap song with rumbling bass, such as “Wanted,” would not be nearly as well-received as a similar song, such as Playboi Carti’s “R.I.P” from his excellent debut Die Lit. Unfortunately, many of the bangers on this album seem like they would only be appropriate for a Sheck Wes concert — while idiosyncrasy is integral to fresh, interesting music in an already oversaturated market, it becomes a huge detriment to quality when it is expressed in excess.
Sheck Wes seems to anticipate listener fatigue from his incessant sonic cacophony and tries to diversify his production and vocal delivery on several songs throughout the album. From intro “Mindf**ker” — that takes almost a minute and a half to start — to the atmospheric-to-a-fault “WESPN,” the slower songs on the track list do not offer an interesting contrast to their more hard-hitting counterparts.
“WESPN” leads into the fantastic “Kyrie,” a highlight within this hopelessly inconsistent record. Its “Kyrie, K-K-K-Kyrie / Ballin’ like I’m Kyrie, K-K-K-Kyrie / I mix it, like Byrie, B-B-B-Byrie / Sauce ’em up, Kyrie, K-K-K-Kyrie” hook is repetitive without getting boring, a rarity for this project. Elsewhere, the penultimate “Danimals” sees Sheck Wes successfully juxtapose a catchy melody with multiple layered vocal tracks to create another listenable record.
Another song in which Sheck Wes ekes out just the right amount of personality is the shocking third track “Gmail,” with its rattling drums, perfectly subdued vocals, amazing flow, rapid-fire synths and amazing outro all coming together to make a memorable hit with endless replay value. It is unfortunate that the few tracks after this one do not come even close to replicating its charm. Sheck Wes seems to have all the talent and taste required to make great songs, but he lacks the quality control and creative cohesion required to produce consistently great bodies of work.
While Playboi Carti uses repetition to a hypnotic effect in his music, Sheck Wes’ constant attempts to recreate this feeling within his own domain largely fall flat, making for relatively boring music. It is telling that “Mo Bamba” remains the best song on the record — it sounds out of place on an otherwise disappointing album.
Sheck Wes repeats his own name as well as the album name on virtually every song throughout Mudboy’s 49-minute runtime. By the time it ends, both of these names remain in the listener’s memory for this reason alone — it seems this might have been done by design because there is little else to offer on this album to make it worth even a second listen.