In my review of Gunna’s last project, I called him the member of his class of uninspired and formulaic trap stars that showed the most promise and potential. With his latest release, he’s seen fit to prove me wrong in extreme fashion – but not dramatic fashion, because DS4EVER might be one of the sleepiest rap albums you’ll ever hear. Spanning nearly an hour in length with nineteen tracks, the small bit of charisma that allowed him to lean into his spacey, vibe-heavy material with a voice built for it evaporates, instead choosing some more straightforward and aggressive material that he can’t handle at all. With inexcusable mixing, a couple eyebrow-raising bars, and some phoned-in features along the way, the only things that truly jump out at the listener here are memeable lyrics on the same level as Drake’s now-infamous “Girls Want Girls” line.
The opening track “private island” certainly lets you know what you’re in for with yet another overdone sad acoustic loop and some tinny trap hi-hats signalling the beginning of the somewhat embarrassing mixing throughout the entire project, as Gunna sees fit to kick things off with a crooned slow jam full of outlandish flex bars, though the complete lack of rhythm, structure or musicality makes it sound more like a drunken ramble than a song. The track is followed up by breakout single “pushin P,” which fans are meming to death and treating like a comedy song – the fans might not want to admit it, but the only reason it’s regarded as so is because Gunna and featured artists Future and Young Thug sound completely incompetent, as if they planned nothing past a studio meeting together. They jump in randomly, seemingly to capture a laid-back time with friends, but it sounds like a garbled mess. Thug literally stumbles in mumbling nonsense then does unspeakable, inexplicable things to a cup of water as the artists rattle off every word they can think of that starts with P like it were Sesame Street.
The track “poochie gown” continues to show Gunna’s lack of care as the anticipated Freddie Gibbs diss is a complete non-starter over one of the album’s worst-mixed beats, full of random volume jumps, while the instrumental on “thought i was playing,” built around atonal harpsichord samples, is so bad that even Gunna’s fans on Genius referred to it as “obnoxious.” It’d be so difficult for anyone to sound good on it that even the typically undefeated feature king 21 Savage falls flat. At least “mop,” bringing back Young Thug, is fun. The ascending video game synths are a comparatively nice touch, while the singsongy flows evoke a goofy, amusing studio session, which is about all you can ask for as far as Gunna is concerned.
A couple signs of life begin to crop up in the album’s second quarter, but they’re all brought back down by other egregious aspects. “how you did that” has a lush, medieval-sounding piano instrumental that’s one of the better beats on the album, but Gunna and Kodak Black’s performances on top still aren’t rewarding to the active listener, detracting from the more striking music underneath them. Still, if there’s any compliment to pay Gunna, it’s here – he often does have the ear for the kind of repetitive, vibe-laden hook to bury its way into your brain. He has almost no musical talent to back it up, but he knows what’s going to fit on a beat for some top-tier background music. The beat on “alotta cake” tries to jump out with more experimental, stuttered and glitchy sounds, but Gunna’s straightforward, lazy approach doesn’t change and it makes for an arrhythmic sludge. Chlöe appears on the track “you & me” sounding absolutely fantastic, but she’s essentially relegated to a background singer as the track begins winding down as soon as she appears, placing more focus on Gunna’s weak attempts at a full-on R&B track. “livin wild” goes for an emotional angle, but opening the track with a story about going to the hospital believing it to be lean-related liver problems and it turning out to be something unrelated, then saying “it couldn’t be more realer” is a testament to how fake Gunna often seems, driven only by the riches and clout.
A couple more aggressive songs later on in the tracklisting see Gunna putting a small, but welcome bit of fire back in his delivery, but the nasal vocals and heavy Auto-Tune makes his voice still difficult to stomach for the most part. “too easy” was selected as a single for a reason, it feels a little more like an average Future single than a Gunna one, being more in the wheelhouse of the featured artist with a better mix on the hi-hats and a more focused, singular instrumental hook as Gunna drops a couple quotables in the chorus. “south to west” tries to capture the same vibe with some triplet flows, but the beat distractingly and hilariously sounds like a bootleg Avengers theme and it cuts off after only two underdeveloped minutes. “idk that b***h” sees him sounding like he’s on the verge of dozing off, with the energy of simply naming the things and people around him as the rhyme scheme even falls apart a couple times. Gunna reunites with Lil Baby on “25k jacket” and you’d think they’d try to make it more of a special occasion. Baby has risen to new heights, but you wouldn’t think it, as he phones it in even more than his partner over screeching violins and discordant guitar noodling in the back.
As a disciple of Young Thug, Gunna sometimes does surprise with some chameleonic vocal moments as he switches voices and inflections. “flooded” is one of those tracks, but at this point in the album, I’m far too worn down by the warbly laziness and the lack of substance that manages to infect nearly every song here. If that wasn’t enough, Chris Brown shows up on track 16. A faux-emotional piano ballad about loneliness that also tacks on Yung Bleu, it just leaves me to conclude that if these three weren’t so unlikable, they wouldn’t have to worry about it. Gunna literally mentions that he recorded “life of sin” as an a cappella and you can tell by the way he awkwardly slides through the ill-fitting melodic moments. The final two tracks are really three, and while you might expect a switch-up of some sort on the final “so far ahead > empire,” it never comes as the final test is what is essentially an 8-minute meandering sadboi song that blends together.
The fact that the race to the top spot between Gunna and The Weeknd was as close as it was paints a pretty disheartening picture. How long have people voiced their frustrations with the state of trap music and predicted its demise, especially as the decade switched over? As Gunna seems to acknowledge on multiple tracks here, this isn’t meant to be reviewed as music – it’s all about the image.
Favourite Tracks: mop, how you did that, too easy
Least Favourite Track: private island