Bladee is by no means your typical Soundcloud rapper. The Swedish musician, often associated with artists such as Yung Lean, is difficult to pin down to just one genre. His autotune croning could be lumped in with the label cloud rap, but it doesn’t nearly do justice to his unique stylistic approach to hip-hop. In his newest album, gone are the typical producers from his group known as Drain Gang and here are the collective of Philly-natives, known as Working On Dying. Producing every track on the album, the members consist of respected producers such as Oogie Mane, F1lthy, and Forza, WOD are well-known in the underground scene and have produced for many artists throughout the years. They are known for innovating their own style of producing known as tread, which is most basically described to those unfamiliar with underground hip-hop as aggressive trap. When their menacing, uptempo style lightens up their synths, it pairs surprisingly well with Bladee’s melodies.
Without a doubt, this is Bladee’s most accessible project. His abstract production mixed with his nasally voice, paired with autotune that surpasses T-Pain puts off many new listeners. However in “Working On Dying,” the tracks are more straightforward with traditional song structures and catchy hooks. The album opens up with “Redlight Moments,” featuring production from F1lthy and Oogie Mane. The track immediately gives the listener a feel of Bladee’s sound, slurring his words together with a Swedish accent, somehow achieving a delivery that is aggressively laid back. Drug abuse, depression, relationships, and anxiety are recurring themes in Bladee’s lyrics, and if you can decipher what he’s saying, it is apparent that this album will follow the same pattern.
“Working On Dying” isn’t too heavy with features compared to most hip-hop projects that are released nowadays. While verses from Yung Lean and associates are scattered throughout the album, I was most excited to see Goth Money Records founder, Black Kray, featured on “Backstreet Boys”. For those who are familiar with the underground pioneer, it’s known that Kray is no stranger to production from the Working On Dying crew. Hearing both him and Bladee on a track coming from the likes of F1lthy and Forza is sure to please their following. Not to mention, Bladee’s voice itself on the hook is infective and could win over those who are on the fence about his sound.
The seventh track on the album, “Under Your Spell,” showcases the melodies that Bladee can achieve. “Under your spell, out of my grip, that’s the only way I live,” the hook sings, referencing a relationship of unconditional love that is struggling to be sustained. Like many other songs on the album, the quiet synths in the background make sure to place almost all emphasis on his voice. The song clocks in at just under two minutes, which shows how hook-based the entire album is compared to Bladee’s other work.
With only 9 tracks and running just a tad over 20 minutes, “Working On Dying” makes for a short listen. For Bladee’s following, many may not like the more traditional direction he takes with this album and Working On Dying’s fanbase may not particularly enjoy the less-aggressive production. However, this is a surefire way to bring in new listeners and end off the year of 2017 with fan favorites. For those looking to expand their rap selection from the usual suspects in the mainstream, “Working On Dying” will give you a look into the underground scene that is well worth it.
story by nick protzman, graphic by vinny nelson