Mixed Personalities: YNW Melly Chases His Demons

Jordan Ryan Pedersen reviews the new album from the mind behind "Murder on my Mind."
By    January 28, 2019

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Jordan Ryan Pedersen hasn’t been diagnosed as bipolar, but there’s still time.

YNW Melly’s Christian name is Jamell Demons. Why even bother coming up with a pseudonym?

When he’s on, it’s like Melly has programmed his auto-tune to channel the voices of his worser angels. Last year’s “Murder on my Mind” saw Melly writing from the perspective of a hapless accident murderer, forced to watch his friend turn into a face on a t-shirt after he shot him by mistake.

Melly’s strength lies is his honesty. “Rolling Loud” seems to traffic in stock hustlerisms – “run up the money,” “gotta get racks racks racks” – but Melly quickly reveals the rationale for his hurry: “I ain’t tryna die no time soon, they say life too short/That’s only if you lose faith, we gotta get it today.”

When he bares his soul on We All Shine, Melly is magnetic. He matches the dissonant note in the finger picked acoustic guitars on “No Heart,” raging against his heartless first love while simultaneously admitting he thought she was the one. Melly’s a honky tonky-level tearjerker on “No Holidays” as he wails to his cell ceiling, lamenting the dry as fuck turkey they serve in jail. And opener “City Girls” is equal parts savage and heartbroken, Melly throwing accusatory questions as he picks up a girl’s heart in the lost and found.

Elsewhere, Melly demonstrates a flair for pop songwriting to rival Future and Young Thug – two of his obvious forebears. “Ingredients” – featuring a fleet guest verse from rising Baton Rogue rapper Fredo Bang – has hooks hanging out the anus – shouts to Sean Combs. And “Mixed Personalities”s boppy synth singalong has propelled it to 7.5 million views on YouTube, despite being weighed down by an appearance from a dipshit Chicago rapper who isn’t Rhymefest.

But We All Shine is often more potential than execution. Melly is capable of lyrical gems, but he pads his lyric sheet with designer name drops and icky sex brags – why oh why has some variation on “sucking and swallowing dick” become a placeholder lyric in radio rap? And occasionally, Melly’s autotune excursions land him in no-mans-land: his glass-cracking yowl at the end of “Alarm” sounds for all the world like the Monty Python old lady voice.

Still, in an era when mainstream rap is dominated by Maroon 5 collaborators and Washington Post Malone, a voice as stark and raw as Melly’s is more precious than ever. Stop fighting those demons, Jamell. Let ‘em in.

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