Just like his brother in memes bbno$ before him, Minnesota rapper Yung Gravy has managed to translate his outlandish public persona and steady stream of trendy and tongue-in-cheek lyrical moments into genuine chart success. Capitalizing off of – what else – a sample flip of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and a public relationship with a TikTok star’s mother seemingly done just to reflect positively on a truckload of lyrics joking about his attraction to older women, the real question remains: is actually listening to a Yung Gravy album a rewarding experience? As far as his latest, Marvelous, goes – not really. Gravy’s traditionally deep vocals can get a little grating after a while, and he doesn’t have as much in the way of traditional rapping ability that someone like bbno$ does. Still, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t multiple tracks that gave me a few chuckles.
In case you didn’t know what you were in for, the opening track “Isn’t It Just Marvelous?” opens with some 80s-style slow-jam synths and Gravy saying “yeah baby, lube up them eardrums” in as deep a voice as he can manage. Then a near-hyperpop pots and pans beat drops and he starts rhyming about syphilis and dubbing a girl St. Thiccolas after another X-rated Christmas pun. Moving back abruptly to a chorus with the same energy as the opening moments shows that this is more of a vessel for memes, rather than music – though bbno$ drops a great verse on the back end with his speedier delivery and a Scooby-Doo reference. The track “soiree!” is built on intense classical piano, pounding away at the low notes – and oddly enough, it has me buying into Gravy’s shtick the most because the juxtaposition is so wrong it’s right. The drama of the instrumental strangely matches the gravitas of his vocals, the music briefly cutting out as Gravy offers to add more members to your family. “Mrs. Worldwide” is Gravy’s take on the “girl in every country” anthem, and he kind of sells it with his charisma over a catchy vocal sample from producer Y2K. Still, Gravy should be able to say so many ridiculous things and keep listeners on their toes that his bars about attracting the ladies shouldn’t feel as repetitive as they do by track 3. He has some great punchlines, but he returns to the hits a little too often.
It’s a TikTok-fuelled world at the moment, and a couple tracks here certainly sound like they’re trying to make a couple catchy soundbites rather than a full song. The track “Sugar Mama” has a couple more sudden tempo changes and beat switches iterating on an overproduced, trendy disco beat, while the guest vocalist IshDARR has some truly obnoxious inflections and sings off-key in the chorus. Still, Gravy making up a new acronym for “NFTs” might be the best bar on the whole album. “bussin!” is another moment where it’s clear Gravy just found out what the kids are saying and figures he had to capitalize on it with a half-hearted song. It’s another truly annoying song with a single redeemable moment – breaking up the high-pitched synth going all over the scales like a broken ice cream truck, Gravy builds up to a falsetto, layering himself like a barbershop quartet. The single “Betty (Get Money)” is a hit for a reason – the original Astley track is a great song and nobody ever wanted to admit it, so throwing a trap beat on the instrumental just makes for an engaging backdrop for another man who’s just as cool due to embracing his cheesiness. There’s something about Gravy’s inflections and delivery here that make him sound even more carefree, leading into yet another take on a classic with “Smells Like Money.” This time offering his own spin on Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It,” Gravy has the mind of a parody writer and might have found his niche.
The formulae start to fall apart a little as an album by someone who’s more of a brand than a musician moves into its second half. The track “where they at!” is a more melodic trap banger, and Gravy is even less of a singer than he is a rapper. The upbeat piano melody in the back combined with Gravy’s deep, drawling tone of voice makes for a bit of a sensory overload. “Dancing In The Rain” is a little more fun as Gravy makes a bid to become the Pope and shoots his shot at Michelle Obama, but “Steakhouse” starts piling on the repetitive bars about moms and over-reliance on other popular songs and flows. Hidden late in the tracklist is single “C’est La Vie,” which sees three of the top-tier meme rappers team up and actually demonstrate some legitimate skills. Rich Brian and bbno$ rapidly trade bars with Gravy, anchored by a central hook that’s simply fun to yell out over a solid bassline. This is the moment where Gravy combines the persona with some engaging music most of all.
The track “Run Me My Money” is another one that takes a melodic angle with an undeniably catchy hook, but it’s once again likely better as a TikTok sound than an actual song – the verses don’t have much that attracts attention, which is kind of the thing he’s an expert at doing. “Steppin On The Beat” should have been the most ripe for parody song of the bunch with its central SpongeBob reference, but giving most of the song to TrippyThaKid’s falsetto flows and general incompetence wasn’t a great move. “Hot Tub” brings Dillon Francis and T-Pain, who gets into full “I’m On A Boat” mode and certainly elevates the track, on board, before things close out with the disjointed madness of the “Skiing in Japan Freestyle.”
It remains to be seen whether Gravy can keep up this newfound mainstream attention and come back with another hit – having a single legitimately hit the year-end charts might be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Even if he doesn’t keep up a musical approach, I’m sure he’ll find some way to stay in the spotlight.
Favourite Tracks: C’est La Vie, Betty (Get Money), soiree!, Smells Like Money
Least Favourite Track: Steppin On The Beat