He’s Harlem’s newest hero for a reason. Since the release of Sheck Wes’ all-conquering hit ‘Mo Bamba,’ the young man has been on an upward flight that’s yet to plateau. He’s already crossing artistic borders, in-between hit-making there’s been editorial appearances for Helmut Lang and runway modelling for Yeezy. Cynics will say that he’s just trying to max out his fame before he falls off, though the intent of his debut album Mudboy says different. Newly signed to Travis Scott’s label Cactus Jack, its suited that this eccentric character gets to live under the tutelage of an equally raucous sensei. While autobiographic albums are nothing new to rap, his extraordinary experiences, and the way he dictates them, create a story that only Wes could tell.
I understand if you want to put Sheck into the same category as other hype rappers with obnoxious basslines, though I implore you to leave comparisons aside. His delivery is varied, drifting from the lurking, spacious bars on ‘Mindfucker,’ to claustrophobia from ‘Jiggy on the shit.’ Jiggy even has a whole verse in French, referential to his maternally enforced exile to his ancestral home in Senegal. His voice has the emotive qualities of someone backed into a corner, though this can switch to rejoice at will. ‘WESPN’ is an appropriate example. Its easy to get lost in the imperfect melodies he’s created, because they feel pure; It takes honesty to talk of the “sad state” that he was in during his struggle. We seldom see a rapper not only confess his emotional baggage, but feel comfortable flexing it too.
Crucially, it feels as if none of his flow, cadence or lyrics come with preconceived intention. I honestly believe that Wes presents his true self with pride on this record, which is of enormous artistic benefit to the project. Many of his fans herald him for his “BITCH” adlibs, and he addresses this early on ‘Gmail.’ When he first tells us that “it’s the only word where [he] can hear and feel all his anger,” it struck me as a childish response. My opinion is unchanged, though the energy each plosive B hits with, screams his ignorance ever-louder. I confess that his brand of simple honesty remains endearing.
While his lyrical style gains from this frank nature, the production on Mudboy fails to benefit the same. Obnoxiously deep base is abused on ‘wanted,’ ‘Fuck Everybody’ and ‘Danimals,’ though I’m tempted to believe that this is the case on every track, merely that its obscured by an appropriate synth melody and Sheck’s zany vocals. My ears fear the back quarter of this record, once they’re over-exposed to its enticing audacity. ‘Mo Bamba’ alone has enough naked aggression for any steroid jumped freak, let alone the more fragile of us.
Sheck Wes’ Mudboy is an endeavour in the relatable and ridiculous. Though what I’ll cherish most of this album is its unabashed integrity, from a voice that I hope to hear warbling for many years to come.
Mudboy is out now
Do yourself a favour and listen to ‘Mo Bamba’ below.By Joel Landschaft-Singe