After making a name for himself by dropping his now-iconic producer tag onto hits by acts like Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott, cloud rap’s go-to beatmaker has been stepping out from behind the boards as well. Charting last year’s TLOP5 in the top 40, Pi’erre Bourne’s latest sees the producer continuing to make woozy hip-hop tracks that mostly follow the same pattern as his beats do – they’re often mind-numbingly repetitive, but oddly entrancing and hypnotic at the same time. Drawn out to 23 songs and over an hour of content, the former aspect becomes a lot more evident. Bringing his cartoonish soundscapes along for the ride and connecting them with some pretty engaging transitions, Bourne simply doesn’t have nearly enough to say up front or a mic presence that keeps listeners from dozing off to match.
For how little lyrical substance and variation you’ll find on these tracks, the main question I have about the album is this: in a post-TikTok world, why are all the tracks so long? Only a single one doesn’t reach three minutes. The project opens with its longest, “Shorty Diary,” which brings a vibe-heavy instrumental of heavy bass and chipmunked samples before Bourne descends onto the track with Auto-Tuned vocals and kicks things off with unresolved melodies about a stalker. Of all the music clearly designed to cater to the background of a function, however, Bourne’s might be doing the most work to convince me – he sinks into the groove and says whatever comes to mind, the endless, repetitive melodies partially reminiscent of someone like NAV, but a more effortlessly cool version. There’s truly something to be said about how much Bourne can make something that seems awful on the surface work, at least at a bare minimum level. It’s like his droning voice is the cloud rap universal solvent. “Ex Factor” has a high-pitched, chopped-up and reversed sample that’s more rhythmically distracting than the one on Drake’s “Champagne Poetry,” but Bourne flows over it all the same and smooths it out. Still, it all makes your brain hurt after a while. As the track moved into the second half, I snapped out of the trance and came to my senses. Most of the time, the lyrics are laughable, if you manage to pay attention to them.
“Love Drill” is one of the more droning tracks, with low sax notes and a heavy dose of vocal layering. Bourne’s technique of landing on a single catchy line or two and playing endlessly off of that instead of writing a chorus might work when other artists are around, but for the most part, it’s just 70 minutes of Pi’erre. “Hop In My Bed” rhymes “jiggle” and “wiggle” at a critical juncture and repeats its title 32 times in a row over what almost feels like an innovative cloud-rap version of a reggaeton beat. The project would be a lot more enjoyable if it were instrumentals only – as long as the lengths were cut. “Superstar” is almost so bad it’s good for the same reason, as Bourne incessantly suggests that his female companion paint her nails purple over some lurching and cartoonish synths. The tracks “Where You Going” and “What I Gotta Do” both find Bourne trying his hand at harmonies and complex vocal layering, something that doesn’t go over too well from the guy whose strength is sitting back and feeling the vibes. With falsetto in the mix and bars like “stacking cheese like a McDouble,” Bourne gets a little overambitious. “DJ In The Car” and “Psane” close out the back half with some of Bourne’s catchiest single-line melodies of the whole project. It goes over better with the thick synth-bass and dancier palate of the former, while the latter recruits Don Toliver for some new energy as they echo a trancelike, 3-note tinny synth melody that makes the whole thing reminiscent of a trap-house Sesame Street anthem.
Things start to fall apart even further in the album’s second half. “Kingdom Hall” sees Bourne place a watery, alien effect on his layered vocals that’s enough of an out-there sound that it stands out among the sea of filler cuts, but the track also has some of the worst lyrics of the year before evaporating rhythmically over a misplaced guitar solo in the 2nd verse. “Kevin Heart” is reminiscent of frequent collaborator Lil Uzi Vert with some bright and colourful synths and an irreverent attitude, and your enjoyment will depend on your tolerance for meme-worthy goofiness and weed bars. The way Bourne begins “Sosshouse Party” by saying “wake up” without a hint of emotion just makes me picture an alarm clock going off in the morning, especially when combined with the alternating 2-note synth in the back, while “Safe Haven” reaches an entirely new low. It sounds like Bourne’s verse wasn’t even originally meant for the beat, going too fast for it and reusing bars along the way.
There’s not much novelty to be found in the project’s dying moments, as Bourne continues to run through his same formulae of woozy beats and repetitive melodies, beginning to throw in a lot more X-rated puns and punchlines as things crawl towards a conclusion. “Moving Too Fast” brings the album’s only other feature in Young Nudy aboard, but unlike Don Toliver, he’s honestly not that different when it comes to his tone and approach. “Good Movie” sees Bourne drop his voice a little bit for some element of novelty, but he’s still making Elon Musk and Pokemon references, so it doesn’t matter much. After everything, “Heart Say” is a decent closer. Bourne’s instrumental approach flips the “rage beat” tendencies, combining them with his usual chiptuney style for more melodic wind-down.
After dropping three albums in three years where Bourne takes the mic himself, it’s a project like this one that should solidify that the experiment might need to end. Bourne’s beats across the board, despite being relatively similar, are at least a distinctive and unique style that works well with his cadre of more charismatic rappers. Knowing his influence, however, we’ll probably get another one.
Favourite Tracks: Psane, DJ In The Car, Superstar
Least Favourite Track: Safe Haven