Shots to the Face, No Chaser: Blueface’s Dirt Bag EP

Lucas Foster goes in on the famous cryp's new release.
By    August 13, 2019

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Lucas Foster is back off that Henny in a brown bag.

Were you close with your high school’s quarterback? Given that you’re currently browsing one of the more esoteric quarters of the respectable rap writing internet, the answer is probably no. But really, is anyone? 

Quarterbacks, generally, are not that interesting, or accessible. Their emotionality is opaque by design and nature – their inner life must be hid in a Nietzschean commitment to the material trappings of victory over all else. When a quarterback so much as displays glee at a completed pass or touchdown, coaches and media begin to excavate character flaws; when he lives a full life publicly off the field, his career is as good as dead. He is subjected to a life of playbooks, film sessions, motivational speeches, weight rooms and heady intellectual analysis of all four.

In the neo-liberal mode of American sports culture, when every move a kid makes from age 13 on is painstakingly dissected in media, when every half-decent pigskin slinger has a throwing coach before then, when a child’s game can be understood to be the only ticket to college and a respectable middle class existence, anything less than that is considered insufficient. 

Blueface is the sort of personality that the quarterback position chose, and not the other way around. He walks in a room, or on a field, and people want to be around him. This is because he’s stunningly handsome, confident and self-possessed. He does not have an artist’s temperament, nor does he have an artist’s instincts. He approaches rapping like a quarterback may approach a playbook: he took Suga Free’s absurdist pimp persona, Drakeo’s flow, Shoreline Mafia’s beat selection and found the perfect package in which to deliver his undeniable bars.

When it all comes together, as it did on Famous Cryp, the finished product is a worthy contender for the finest pop rap on the market. 

His introduction was striking because he has too much charisma and captured the LA Gangsta Rap zeitgeist in a way that made it translatable to nearly anyone of the 7 billion souls who live outside of this megalopolis. This is because he makes Nervous Music without nerves; it’s hard to imagine Blueface’ inner monologue, to imagine him breaking a sweat, to imagine that he has ever truly stressed when pressed with the realities, institutions, meta-narratives he has indeed confronted.

On Dirt Bag Blueface is happy, even gleeful, about living the unexamined life. While his early work was aspirational, yet self-assured, here he is indulging in a purely performative celebration of himself. This is nothing new, or different, or commendable, or condemnable. The appeal of sports fandom is to live vicariously through joyously beautiful physical specimens who through sheer force of will and genetic gifts can live a certain sort of life.

A simple existence entirely devoted to a game outside of context, outside of history, misery, politics and the assorted horrors of a very complex universe that conducts itself outside of grassy fields and auditoriums. The appeal of Blueface here is precisely that he creates Chad Rap: bouncy, swaggering, boisterous records that celebrate his sexual conquests, Cash Money records deal, skills as a rapper, and lack of worries about much anything. 

Like most major label debuts, the eight track EP captures what made Blueface special in the first place, cleans it up, and amplifies it. Curiously, since the objective is to replicate, or at least ape, the culturally dominant run of “Thotiana,” the tape takes its time to find a catchy, or pleasing melody. “Dirtbag” and “Bussdown” are not bad tracks, per se, they are just unnecessarily simple, stripped down to parts. The beats are tiny, just a few components; on “Dirt Bag” Blueface manages to carry the melody-free snap instrumental with his charisma alone; on “Bussdown” Blueface and Offset both sound naked and exposed on top of a few hesitant piano keys. 

The project picks up around “Disrespectful” and is genuinely enjoyable listening from there on out. Even Blueface’s struggle singing on “Gang” is carried by an all time Mozzy verse (“I’m finna bareback her on this air mattress/ We don’t call it gettin’ fly we just Pterodactin’”). Yet perhaps the strongest track, front to back, on Dirt Bag is “Bussin,” a pretty, intricately constructed and obnoxiously fun braggadocio rap that features a rare passable Lil Pump verse and was produced by . . . Scott Storch. 

Some of Famous Cryp’s best moments were simple, nearly-unintentional, offbeat fun. Sort of amateurish, regionally-informed tracks where his cocky charm could make itself most comfortable. This is absent here, his goofiness sanitized and replaced with icy cool, errorless commercial rap of the type that Cash Money has made since Baby was selling soft. Dirt Bag is mechanically excellent, it features decent to great features from a seemingly random selection of A-Listers, it was methodically thought out and executed like any victor’s gameplan.

It is a victory lap that satisfied our expectations for Blueface and should extend his stay in the monocultural pantheon for some time, yet there is no reason to jump into superlatives here. Blueface is what he is: a fun, incomplex artist who translates LA’s late 10’s rap resurgence to a wider audience. He doesn’t need to be assigned greater expectations or greater titles, and, save a rediscovery or reinvention process while recording his forthcoming LP, he shouldn’t be counted on to hold our attention for all that much longer.

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