Following a trio of widely successful singles, Harlem's own baller/rapper/fashion extraordinaire delivers true-to-form debut album that is everything we anticipated; simple, catchy and instrumentally macabre. Like most debut studio projects, MUDBOY is expectedly flawed, but Sheck's unavoidable personality leaves nothing in the way of excitement for what's to come from the young MC.
In July of 2018 on the Lower East Side of New York City, Sheck Wes told Pitchfork Music writer Timmhotep Aku that he wants to be the first man "to win Nobel Peace Prizes, as many Grammys as I can, Emmys, Golden Globes, VMAs, everything."
Daunting as it may sound, Sheck Wes has serious ambitions as a creative.
Sheck is as multi-talented as they come, and preceding the production and release of his massive debut single "Mo Bamba", he boasted an impressive basketball career in high school. In an interview with Complex News, close friend, NBA rookie and song inspiration Mo Bamba explained that "not a lot of people know his background, Sheck was a basketball player, he led the city (NYC) in assists... he was real."
All things aside, Sheck Wes's success in the music industry occurred from the jump. "Mo Bamba", one of his debut singles, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at 31 nearly a full year later. "Mo Bamba" served as a rare case of a late blooming record, and almost a year and a half after it's initial release, it's still played clubs and college parties alike.
Oddly and unintentionally, Sheck Wes had loosely cemented himself as a one-hit wonder, so it was only fitting that a plethora of questions were to be answered in anticipation for his long awaited debut album, MUDBOY.
In today's rapidly changing rap climate, it's actually quite uncommon to find a rapper in his/her adolescence entering their first project without a backpack of EP's and singles to their name. Sheck Wes is this rare exception, in the year preceding his debut full-length, Sheck gave listeners no more than three or four singles.
After many listens following its release just this Friday, I can say without a shadow of doubt that MUDBOY is precisely what it is meant to be; a debut album.
From start to finish, this fourteen-track LP sticks to the blueprint that Sheck Wes has embraced since his earliest releases. Sheck knows what it takes to get the fans rowdy, so he wisely makes it a point to not swerve out of the lane of mosh-pit rap on MUDBOY. Naturally, the albums standout tracks are "Mo Bamba", "Live Sheck Wes Die Sheck Wes" and "Chippi Chippi", the three pre-album singles, which at face value may sound underwhelming. This is unsurprising, however, as this is a common trend amongst rap artists on their first full-length.
Take this for example; prior to the release of The College Dropout, Kanye West's landmark debut album, West released "Through The Wire", "Jesus Walks", "All Falls Down" and "Slow Jamz" as promotion for the eventual release of his debut LP. Unless you live under a rock, you know that these four records have stood the test of time as some of Kanye's best, and I would honestly argue that these four tracks all deserve a place in Kanye's top 20 all-time best songs.
Taking this into consideration, it was expected that this was to happen for Sheck Wes. Much to the pleasure of myself, however, there are in fact a couple other tracks that hold their own as diamonds in the mud (see what I did there?).
"Mindfucker", the albums debut track, is a commandment to Sheck's style to this point. The lyricism is airtight and simple, the flow is true to the rappers style, and the production is dark... like horror movie dark (we'll talk about this later, it's actually very important). On "Mindfucker", Sheck Wes raps:
Put my thoughts in my pen and bullets in my weapon And I pray and say amen anytime a nigga stressin' But my mind my greatest weapon 'cause Fuck people with, nigga, it's your mothafuckin' mind You fuck everything but your mind, nigga
Ridiculous filler aside, Sheck Wes actually highlights an important facet of his career to this point. Sheck knows his music isn't complex or deeply-layered, but he makes it abundantly clear here that he is the puppeteer behind the operation. Sheck obviously has help in production, but besides that, it's the mind of the young Harlem hopeful that put MUDBOY together when it's all said and done. In promotion for the project, marketing for the album made it clear that MUDBOY is "Mixed, Mastered and Executively Produced by Sheck Wes", a feat that few artists can claim in their adolescence, let alone on the first full-length LP.
Another gem is "Gmail", a structurally sound trap track with crisp delivery throughout. The records high point is Sheck's flow, particularly on the assumed hook. The flow fits into the entrancing beat like a glove. Sheck Wes finds triumph in simplicity on "Gmail", a trend MUDBOY follows from front to back.
The album's fourth track, "Wanted", sucks the listener through his/her headphones and onto the unpredictable streets of Harlem. Although Sheck's delivery is fairly simple, his no-fucks-given message on "Wanted" is quite evident; rattling off a handful of street in his neighborhood where he's literally wanted, Sheck knows people are coming for him from all over, even those from his hometown. Standing as one of the albums more impressive tracks, "Wanted" pulls off a feat of being simultaneously polished and rugged, as the instrumental and his delivery embody the concept of opposites attracting.
After hours of research and cycles through MUDBOY, I had a sudden realization.
Burning through my fourth or fifth listen of the album, I had to remove my headphones and turn my critic brain off for a second.
I realized something about Sheck Wes and his debut full-length MUDBOY, and I want you to listen to me very closely when I say this,
MUDBOY is NOT an ordinary trap album, and Sheck Wes is most certainly NOT a typical trap artist.
MUDBOY, is NOT a radio-heavy stream grab, and Sheck Wes is NOT a clout chaser.
When every layer and analyzation is peeled from the outer shell of this project, Sheck Wes wants one thing to be very clear. He's not here for your satisfaction. Literally and metaphorically, the ball is in the Harlem prodigies court.
Sheck knows his music isn't for everyone, and while MUDBOY may initially come off as a standard debut album, it's intention is not to be standard under any circumstance.
MUDBOY is a musical representation of every single thing that Sheck Wes has experienced in his short and fascinating life to this point. Much like the album cover that accompanies the content of the project, Sheck's hands are dirty and he knows he's wanted. He's vulnerable and his arms are out, ready for all the heat coming his way.
It's likely that you probably won't be able to relate to his message, but that's part of the beauty of this project. Sheck Wes's intention is to give you a temporary invitation to his world of chaos and rapid stardom.
So I beg you, before diving into MUDBOY, clear your mind of any previous opinions you have on the state of new-age rap. Come into the album with an open mind, a couple friends and a reckless spirit, because it's a ride.
Maybe bring a little mud too... if you're into that kind of thing.