On his impressive debut album, MUDBOY, Sheck Wes makes a statement in the often repetitive formula of Trap music while incorporating the genre’s repetitive hooks, energized flows, and addictive ear candy beats. MUDBOY intertwines these fundamental aspects while adding new frontiers in this constantly evolving subgenre.
Sheck Wes has exploded in the past six months. At only twenty years of age, Sheck Wes has signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. MUSIC and Travis Scott’s Cactus Jack in a joint venture under Interscope Records. On MUDBOY, Sheck Wes provides powerful and provoking lyrics in a genre that is criticized for lack of substance and meaning.
The second single and underground hit that has taken over playlists across the country, “Live Sheck Wes”, has captured listeners through its formulaic trap chorus that thrives off of repetition, catchy flows, and a dark bass line. Despite the generic structure the song gives a glimpse into the dark realism of police brutality and the dangerous environment of the projects in Harlem where Sheck Wes was born and raised.
Sheck illustrates, “Some boys, we’re shootin’ shots, other boys was clutchin’ clips / It gets tragic where I live, everything is negative / Hold the roaches in the crib, elevator full of piss “, these visuals provide a grimy view of the world Sheck had to experience during his time in Harlem.
One of the most powerful lyrics on the album, “Everybody grew up tough, bunch of diamonds in the rough / Police ain’t never give a fuck, they just want us in them cuffs “, exhibits the harsh reality of police brutality in the streets of Harlem. MUDBOY is filled with songs that are straight out bangers, and it is easy for listeners to get sidetracked, but Sheck Wes provides a vast amount of autobiographical gems from his grueling past.
At the age of seventeen, Sheck Wes was sent by his parents to their native country of Senegal in western Africa to instill discipline. During his time in Africa, Sheck introspected and found inspiration, and when he returned to New York had a burning desire to succeed. On “Jiggy on the S***s” he recalls his time being sent to Senegal, and pays homage to his roots by even rapping a verse in Wolof, the native language of Senegal. Which is quite unconventional for compared to the uniform trap landscape in today’s trap scene.
Arguably the most important aspect of trap music is the production. Mudboy for the majority does not fall short on this feature, handled for the majority by producers Yung Lunchbox and Redda both long time collaborators. Sonically the songs on MUDBOY embody the aesthetic of the evil, grimy, and dark elements that are prevalent throughout the album. Integrating rapid snares and 808’s with atmospheric and ethereal synths and keyboards that float like a cloud of mist in the background. The producers do an excellent job of building anxiety that eventually leads to the drop of a simple but extremely violent bass line that causes the listener to want to punch a hole through a wall.
Perhaps one of the most eerie hip/hop beats of 2018 is on the fifth song, “Chippi Chippi”. Redda applies multiple sinister sound effects that are layered over each other that sound like they could score Courage the Cowardly Dog. After these abnormal sound effects the snare machine comes in and absolutely smacks the listener in the face. Simultaneously, there is a faint bass line in the back that seems to flow right back with Sheck until the song finishes.
Thematically the album revolves around the name of the album itself, “Mudboy”. Lyrically, Sheck’s rhymes are constantly referencing his roots and how harsh his upbringing was in Harlem. His tones and flows are often angry and dirty commonly referencing to this Mudboy persona. Sonically, the production of the album fits the Mudboy aesthetic through the often simple but nasty and hazy beats.
Overall, MUDBOY alludes to the fact that Sheck Wes created a path for himself from nothing, he was not even expected to succeed whether that be his own background or the environment in which he is from. In that being a “Mudboy” is coming from nothing and the path to success is often not easy and pretty, but rather ugly and dirty and coming from the beneath the Earth like mud.