Will Hagle heard “Miami” at Magic City.
In his short tenure with GOOD Music, Valee has already demonstrated a characteristic missing amongst the rest of the label’s roster: commitment to the brand. Valee’s new six-song, 14-minute EP is entitled GOOD Job, You Found Me. Kanye West executive produced it. Pusha T is the lone feature. Whether Valee intended to become GOOD Music’s future or not, it’s clear the label intends to market him that way.
It’s a smart choice, considering how much Valee has in common with his label’s founder. He’s not the best rapper ever, but he builds subtly experimental songs around catchy, repetitive hooks. He has the ability to make his own beats. He’s from Chicago, but he sounds Atlanta enough to get on the radio. If Kanye couldn’t convince Chance to ditch his independence, Valee might be his next best choice.
GOOD Job, You Found Me is one of the best, most interesting debuts in GOOD Music history. Every song could be a hit. A few of them already were. “Miami,” updated from its mixtape incarnation with better production quality and a Pusha T verse, displays Valee’s vocal dexterity, his high-pitched hook weaving over the beat in a start-stop flow. “Shell” does the same, differently, over a beat Valee produced himself. “I Got Whatever” and “Vlone” are more subdued, as Valee’s mumbling half-singing cultivates a distinct vibe with seemingly little effort.
Despite the EP’s many strong moments, Valee—again, not unlike his label’s founder—is not the world’s best rapper. His lyrics sound like they’re hitting the SEO keywords of what comprises a modern rap hit. “Percocet,” “Margiela,” “Gucci,” and “Louis” all pop out, revealing pretty much nothing about Valee’s actual personality. Even 21 Savage and Travis $cott, two close analogues to Valee’s sound, reveal more of their own unique viewpoints throughout their respective mindless tracks. Valee makes up what he lacks in substance with style, though, and his take on the sparse materialistic trap of the moment is more captivating than the majority of his peers.
There’s no question Valee has the mainstream appeal to carry GOOD Music into a new, exciting era. The problem is that almost any artist of middling talent could easily achieve that goal. Kanye, despite being one of the most colorful, dynamic, and captivating artists of the 21st century, has managed to consistently release albums comprised of relentless blandness from his GOOD Music artists. Kid Cudi, and arguably Big Sean, have been the only exceptions to this rule. Still, despite putting out so many duds, the GOOD Music name comes with a higher set of standards and expectations, simply due to the man behind it.
If Valee wasn’t attached to GOOD Music’s reputation, the faults of this EP would be entirely inoffensive. But fans should expect Kanye to deliver the world a young artist as compelling as he once was, no matter how many times he’s failed at doing so. GOOD Music should have become the coolest label in the world, a place for the weirdest artists from hip-hop’s fringes to grow and flourish under the tutelage of a mastermind producer. Instead, it’s become a refuge for musicians who excel mostly at mimicking their peers’ most boring musical aspects. Valee teeters on that edge, but GOOD Job, You Found Me shows promise that he’ll end up on the other side.