Well, here we are again. For a while, it looked like we might never be getting another album out of Instagram personality and attention magnet 6ix9ine. Whittling a 47-year prison sentence down to just two after extensive cooperation that spawned memes on memes and getting released early due to COVID fears, how could the return of rap’s most notable villain result in anything but a couple massive hit singles? Despite clearly being more focused on social media antics and trolling his detractors than his musical output, I’ve genuinely always thought that 6ix9ine’s unique musical niche tapping into an area of hardcore hip-hop absent from the mainstream had great potential. Unfortunately, as his name just continues to get bigger, he’s venturing farther and farther away from putting in any effort and an album like this one just feels like an afterthought. With a fair share of lyrics nodding to the many controversies surrounding him and boasting about his success that seem designed to spark passionate Twitter rants and little else, 6ix9ine watering down his sound to a softer and more melodic direction takes quite a bit of the fire out of one of the only things he had going for him. The gimmick is fading quickly, and rap’s troll king isn’t even good at trolling anymore.
The album opens with what is by default one of its strongest tracks because it’s the only time that we actually get to hear something that at least feels somewhat genuine from 6ix9ine. Bringing Akon to sing the hook of his smash hit “Locked Up” and add a new verse, the track sees 6ix9ine reflecting on his regretful mindstate while in prison and his decision to turn on those who he thought were his friends while cooperating with the authorities. Of course, most of the musical appeal comes from using the same instrumental as the 2004 classic complete with the prison door slam as percussion, but Akon honestly sounds pretty great on his new verse, and if 6ix9ine is just reaching at a play for sympathy, he’s a pretty good actor. The next track “TUTU” comes with the kind of maddeningly catchy syncopated synth instrumental that would be near impossible to mess up, but 6ix9ine manages to do it. While his nasal singing voice was already incredibly grating, here he opts to take it one step further and back himself up with a yelped and off-key falsetto and some seriously underwritten bars that make it sound like he was freestyling and started repeating lines because he couldn’t think of anything else to say in time. Comeback single “GOOBA” comes next in the tracklist, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the song. Hitting the closest to the scream-rap style that nobody can truly do like him and riding over an electrifying trap instrumental, 6ix9ine unleashes some of his funniest and most ignorant bars really playing into his villain role – it’s hard not to admire his confidence. The top comment on Genius reads “Unfortunately, this is fire.” Yeah.
From there, however, the album takes a complete nosedive in quality. You wouldn’t think that the kind of artist capable of a shot of energy like “GOOBA” – or really, a superior version like 2018’s “KOODA” – would ever stoop to sounding like the repetitive and robotic struggle raps of someone like a Gunna or NAV, but that’s essentially what we get on a track like “WAIT.” Reusing lines and droning through the bare minimum of a hook that repeats a single vocal melody ad nauseam, it’s the kind of sonic wallpaper that seems like the antithesis of what someone who has turned themselves into a human rainbow would want to be putting out into the world. When 6ix9ine fails at grabbing attention and sinks into the background with everyone else, something is seriously wrong. “CHARLIE” sees him dip back into blowing out his vocal cords, but even this is getting old when it sounds like 6ix9ine is simply going through the motions. Featured artist SMILEZ offers a couple funny bars as he takes over the majority of the track, which only serves to make the album as a whole feel even more rushed and unfinished. The track “NINI” sees 6ix9ine taking a page from Drake’s playbook and making a watered-down dancehall complete with Jamaican patois for no reason whatsoever, the sliding synth hook sounding near-identical to the worldwide smash hit “Mi Gente” as 6ix9ine aims to rack those YouTube views up from a global audience and rhymes “Kim Jong Un” with “Kim Jong Un.”
Around the album’s middle we also get the single “TROLLZ,” which became 6ix9ine’s first number one single due to bored and quarantined Nicki Minaj fans spending their life savings on merch bundles to support their queen as a featured artist. Minaj’s verse really isn’t that bad as she brings her trademark zany energy, but 6ix9ine’s hook is stunningly low-effort, offering bursts of single words and strings of “yeahs” and still managing to precariously ride the beat. Over a low-key and watery trap instrumental, the track has almost no energy whatsoever during his parts and once again leaves me wondering how a 6ix9ine song of all things could end up putting me to sleep. His other singles are scattered throughout the back half, including the track “PUNANI” that’s really not much more than a two-line chorus repeated for nearly two minutes, unless you count 6ix9ine repeatedly whining “nasty” in a high-pitched voice, and obligatory Spanish single “YAYA” which at this point is about as generic as it gets with a reggaeton beat and 6ix9ine’s grating and Auto-Tuned vocal delivery.
The final run of tracks only makes things worse with some of the most undercooked and awful ideas here. If you’re some kind of masochist and ever wanted to hear 6ix9ine and Akon interpolate a Bryan Adams song and change the lyrics to be about pouring Patron, here it is on “LEAH.” He once again teams up with fellow obnoxious clickbait peddler DJ Akademiks on the track “GATA,” which is essentially a grotesque Frankenstein’s monster of reused lines from 6ix9ine history falling over themselves. The track “GTL” is basically the exact same song as “LOCKED UP PT. 2” except through horrendous audio quality as he sings them through a phone call from prison. The album concludes with “AVA,” which doesn’t come with anything as egregiously misguided but ends what should be an event album with a whimper as it represents one of its more boring and derivative tracks.
Simply put, it seems like outside of a couple final grasps at attention that he had saved up for his return to the public eye, 6ix9ine has run out of ways to be interesting or disruptive, which was his entire modus operandi for existing as a public figure. It’s tough to see his career going anywhere but further downward from here.
Favourite Tracks: GOOBA, LOCKED UP PT. 2
Least Favourite Track: GTL