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Every week we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week, we're catching up with an album released late in 2019 that debuted at #1 on Billboard: Roddy Ricch's Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial.
For any budding addition to the lineage of Compton rap superstars, their narrative rarely evades miserable conditions and unfortunate circumstances. While Roddy Ricch built his own wave through the back end of the decade, his instant earworm presence on “Racks in the Middle” - the final Nipsey Hussle single before Hussle’s murder last year - undoubtedly played a hand at sealing Ricch’s stardom. Where death remains the ultimate profile boost, one’s proximity persists as the double-edged sword. Roddy Ricch has calibrated his own tune to two-step in this proximity; his Compton’s far from unfamiliar, but his conviction and versatility have been pivotal in winning the streets and the charts. Now comes Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial, Roddy’s Billboard #1 debut complete with all the blockbuster trap trimmings: high-caliber producers, superstar features, and a curated weight between worldbuilding and crowd-pleasing.
When Antisocial dwells in the latter, Roddy reconfirms his impact with relative ease. There’s plenty of dwelling: the album steers away from all-out concept territory, keeping the stakes low enough for Roddy to skate across the potent trap standards. There’s enough legibility to satisfy any casual listener; that said, Roddy often borders showstopping territory with no sound too grandiose for his energy. He’s left a long trail of singles to prove it, but he refuses to squander or undersell his moment here. “The Box” into the Gunna-assisted “Start Wit Me” remains one of the most thrilling two-pieces in recent memory, Roddy bobbing and weaving through his range like the title’s already on his waist. He’s constantly speaking and crooning from his chest, even when he leans into a reserved serenade. Every feature keeps this energy as well, from Lil Durk’s awkwardness on “Moonwalkin” to Meek Mill’s signature brashness on “PETA.” Roddy continues to bank on making the listener go wherever he does, even when it’s to a spot we’ve seen before.
Unfortunately, familiarity proves to be the album’s biggest crutch: while Roddy’s talent remains undeniable, it’s not utilized anywhere fresh or challenging. A focused execution (and runtime) redeems the lack of narrative - thankfully, this is no album for streaming’s sake - but Antisocial registers more as proof of concept for Roddy’s skills while granting him minimal time to channel his emotional resonance into more intentional worldbuilding. “War Baby” epitomizes what happens when Roddy runs with such an opportunity: intense, detailed, and leveraging a choir with power over cliche. He shares in the spoils of his victory while offering a snippet of his survival. “Prayers to the Trap God” approaches that execution level, Roddy chronicling his family history with the streets as he sinks his teeth into paranoia, offering a ground-level view into the moments before a raid. Outside of a handful of album cuts, there’s little depth to latch onto.
It’s a forgivable offense, or it would be if Roddy didn’t spend a bulk of Antisocial sounding like a spitting image of his influences. There’s far too much Future and Thug in the gumbo. Roddy’s cited both as major influences in his process, but it’s like he’s switching between pantomiming them both in the way he angles his vocal tones and cadences throughout the album. I checked my phone several times for the “surprise feature,” only to be disappointed by how heavily Roddy leans into the Atlanta lineage when he can excel on his own merits. The best Roddy Ricch songs sound like Roddy Ricch, on this album and in his catalogue at large. He’s a formidable songwriter with a passionate presence and the range to do anything. He’s engrossing at his most unhinged, and empathetic in a way where streets abroad can rejoice in his triumphs. But Antisocial still manages to feel somewhat distant, though Roddy offers us a bit more to the picture. Imagine what he’d do with a canvas worthy of his spirit, and the push to innovate beyond his influences; both are necessary to remain pervasive past this moment.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.
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