Harold Bingo always saves his receipts.
Moments into his de facto debut, All The Grams & Autographs, De De Porter shares a sad anecdote about watching a (presumed) junkie washing a car in eight degree weather. It’s easy to picture this struggle taking place on a bitterly cold Toledo winter day.
Later in that same song, an audible (yet mirthless) chuckle erupts at another junkie’s expense. Trap shit is all he can talk about and the sentiment repeats itself on the next song (entitled “Trap Shit,” natch). This mentality and its consequences are on display throughout the album. Adhering to trap shit with jarring specificity, Porter gets into day-to-day details that transcend the tropes. Set amidst the hustle, paranoia levels shriek at a fever pitch, and attention to detail is the difference between survival and imprisonment.
He’s more than capable as a rapper and even though his lyrics are insular, it’s admittedly hard to look outward when every moment hinges on survival. The raps are well written but not flashy. Looming specters of death and prison hang over every word. There are no features. He seems unsure how much time is left to tell his story.
Asides like, “Think I Pookie’d the zips/ I really taxed ’em” and “it been slow/ you been out here serving the police, so you would know” set the scene. None of this is remotely celebratory. On “Patience,” he wakes up with a pocket full of hundreds, but those same pockets are also loaded with receipts. Even the triumphant moments are grounded in mundane realities. There are stakes and constant worries. The album evokes trips to the store for baggies; whispered conversations about potential snitches, dropped calls on flip phones, tense drives spent looking over your shoulder, and sleepless nights spent worrying about a drought or a potential raid.
Nowhere is this idea laid out more plainly than on the album’s centerpiece. “Facts of Life” has a bouncy beat and a Ric Flair punchline, but the refrain is chilling. “One head shot and you gone/ It’s crazy/ I just been thinking about it lately” is uttered with the type of nonchalance that a person can only obtain when they’ve trained themselves not to consider the true consequences of life.
Think a smaller scale version of Johnny Depp going the airport with 15 kilos in his suitcase in Blow. No light at the end of the tunnel. This stress places a strain on familial relationships, which are addressed on “Fucking The Money Up.” Women and friends are lost throughout the duration of the project and trust is hard to come by.
Everything takes place on the ground level, where refrains have little to do with popping bottles or chasing women. “Fell In Love” is one of the more anthemic cuts on the album and the “celebration” centers around stashing a knot in the safe after a hard day’s work and passing a lawyer $20,000 so they can “put a hole in the case.”
None of this is to say that Porter is an overly dour rapper or that he doesn’t know how to enjoy himself. But most of his laughs are nervous and remaining on his square is of utmost importance.
The album doesn’t concern itself with trends. The production is full of palpable creeping Midwestern dread. It’s music that sticks to your ribs and even though it’s doggedly loyal to the basics, All The Grams and Autographs leaves you feeling like you’ve just experienced a day of brutal cold, standing on the corner.