Album review: Blackbear’s ‘digital druglord’ is an ideal chill album, but not much more

Alternative rap and hip-hop artist Blackbear released his newest album digital druglord Friday. The artist is better known for his collaborations than anything else — but this album might turn more attention to his own music.

digital druglord is significantly different from his older albums. He recreates his Blackbear sound into something more refined and enjoyable (and not just because he seemed to forget what capitalization was with his album and song titles). The album drifts away from an intense edgy sound into something with a bit more of a pop aesthetic, which surprisingly fits the album.

The album has a certain “chill” element that past albums didn’t really deliver on, which has created something really unique for Blackbear. Droplets of slow, tropical trap music are mixed throughout the album, along with a dreamy blend of urban melody interlaced with piano chords that create a sophisticated and complex sound. The layered sound isn’t overwhelming, though, and each layer only adds to the relaxing groove of the songs. The aspects work together in different places and highlight each new element individually.

“wish u the best” is probably the best representation of the album as a whole, as well as an enjoyable song on its own. It also incorporates an enjoyable R&B beat into its melody. “hell is where i dreamt of u and woke up alone” is another notable song, with lyrics like, “My mom’s unhappy/With all the choices I been making with my life/I don’t even fucking care though/I’m probably going to die/Like everyone else,” intermixed with slow, tickling piano and a soulful and melancholic mix of rap and singing. Other good songs include, “i miss the old you,” and “make daddy proud.”

While I generally liked the album, there were a few songs and elements that were less favorable. I’m not entirely a fan of either “do re mi” or “double,” mostly because they sounded a touch too auto-tuned and inauthentic. These songs and parts of others follow that predictable formula for “edgy” urban pop — with nothing new to them. They just came off as trying to replicate the sounds of other popular hip-hop artists like G-Eazy, which was the one part of the album I couldn’t condone. The songs just aren’t that diverse and sound pretty similar, and are all representative of the same appeal to the pop music crowd, moving away from the unique Blackbear sound and talent.

If you’re looking for the delightful alternative hip-hop sound over pop sensibilities, then I’d recommend listening to Blackbear’s 2016 album Help instead. But, if you are a fan of popular artists like G-Eazy, this album will be an enjoyable listen.

With all that said, the dreamy and rhythmic album surpassed my expectations, and I would recommend a listen. The album does a fantastic job generating a catchy and particular beat that sways with its melodies nicely. This creates the perfect soundtrack for a weekend hang out, tip-toeing directly on the line between jumpin’, bumpin’, partyin’ hip-hop and some of the lazy and lethargic variety. The album is an ideal chill album — but serves just as a chill album, and not much more. 

Considering all elements of digital druglord, the album deserves a 7/10.

Contact CU Independent Arts writer Tessa Piehl at tessa.piehl@colorado.edu

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