With the amount of highly anticipated debut albums from our favorite artists this year, timing is everything. Release an album too early, and risk people forgetting about it before festival season starts. Release during festival season, and run the risk of being overplayed. Release it too late, and risk being lost in the shuffle with everyone else making a push for end of the year lists and countdowns. RL Grime’s Void has been available for streaming since late last week and after giving it a full listen, it’s safe to say that its timing would have never been an issue.
Void opens with “Always,” the most downtempo and somber piece in the 12-track LP. Immediately, the mood shifts gears with “Danger” featuring Boys Noize, which feels more like the true opening of the album with its funky synths and quicker pace. One of the strongest tracks on Void is “Scylla,” but not because it sounds like what many believe to be RL Grime’s style. Rather than keep the same time signature for the bass line throughout the track , “Scylla” switches it up constantly, leaving audiences unsettled for the duration of the song. Its massive horn section is reminiscent of RL Grime’s smash hit “Tell Me” with What So Not, which had massive airplay earlier this year.
“Kingpin” featuring Big Sean earns the title of biggest collaboration on Void, with all the makings of a chartable single in mainstream media. It’s refreshing to see artists reach out to non-EDM acts to create non-genre-specific tracks. With the success of Void, could we finally see a spike in the number of crossovers between trap and major hip-hop artists in 2015?
On the same vein as “Tell Me,” “Valhalla” featuring Djemba Djemba is an equally massive collab that should see heavy rotation in DJ sets over the next few months. The intro to “Valhalla” almost teases us with a bit of Drum n’ Bass, until the first drop erases that (but don’t completely write out DnB on this album… more on that later). After “Let Go,” a brief interlude, we finally get to hear “Core,” one of the few tracks fans have already been able to listen to on SoundCloud prior to the album’s release. This and “Monsoon” pull away from traditional trap music with instruments that give it a more Middle Eastern vibe, which is emphasized more in the drum and horn sections of the latter track.
Those who liked the versatility of “Kingpin” might also enjoy “Reminder” featuring How to Dress Well, the most unexpected track on Void by far. The addition of How to Dress Well’s vocals is almost a full departure from the genre, and once again attracts a new set of fans with swoon-worthy, old school R&B vocals full of falsetto riffs. I never thought I’d put “RL Grime” in the same sentence as “baby making music,” but I did and it’s just as glorious as one would imagine it to be.
Remember when I said not to completely write off DnB from Void? The penultimate track “Julia” adds one more surprising layer to the album with a fantastically dark DnB record. The final three tracks may be completely different styles, but RL Grime goes a masterful job of making them flow together without alienating any of them from each other or the rest of the album. Closing out Void in a monstrous fashion is “Golden State,” though the track is anything like the shiny, happy-go-lucky state of California for which it’s named after. One could argue that a track with this much presence may have made a better intro than closing, but “Golden State” makes such a statement that it’s hard to consider what track could have followed it without falling into its shadow.
Overall, this debut album from RL Grime is so more than just 12 trap songs. Not only is every track unique, but the album as a whole is a great representation how one’s influences can produce an album that makes it hard to classify as just one genre. Well spaced energy, careful collaborations, and limited vocals make this a strong first LP from RL Grime and sets the bar high for future tracks in 2015.