SUPER SAIYAN VOL. 3 by Sicko Mobb
Favorite Tracks: “Throwin’ Money,” “Foreign,” “Eaters”
Sicko Mobb is a duo possessing what is undoubtedly one of the most singular voices in modern rap. Having made our top 50 for 2015 with SUPER SAIYAN VOL. 2, Lil Trav and Lil Ceno juxtapose maximized Auto-Tune and incredibly optimistic production with themes and lyrics that could find a happy home in a mordantly morbid drill, culminating in a strident and gripping listening experience. The flagship figures of the young bop subgenre, Sicko Mobb are slowly but steadily gaining steam, just in time for the surprise release of SUPER SAIYAN VOL. 3.
Seemingly going through a sort of artistic puberty, the third installment of the series sees the pair attempt to navigate more unfamiliar waters, not relying quite so heavily on their formerly oppressively optimistic production aesthetic. Much like Future before them, while experimentation on this new release can be commended to a certain extent, by taking away what has historically carried them through, unfortunate truths about their versatility are exposed.
Album opener “Digits” immediately establishes that we’ll be interacting with Sicko Mobb in an unfamiliar soundscape. Gone are the soaring synths dearly indebted to Chiptune; instead, we have a subdued track in both technicality and production, with an obfuscated melody in the background complemented by snaps that are a half-step from a DJ Mustard track. This new, self-serious incarnation of Sicko Mobb surfaces again with the lower register vocal programming of “Represent,” the muddled production of “Going In,” and the plodding, introspective delivery of “Last Time.” Ostensibly responding to criticism regarding their candy-coated tonal milieu, Sicko Mobb continues to venture into new territory with the comparatively skeletal trap stylings of “Won’t Take Long” and the rollicking, crystal clear synth arpeggios of “Expensive Taste” (which features a nondescript if not surprising-in-concept feature by Jeremih). This branching out of the comfort zone acts an aural spectacle, but fails to cohere into anything tangible; whereas the saccharine nature of VOL. 2 practically snapped off the record like pop rocks, the songs here are more like a sample platter of stylings a confidant told them they needed to enact in order to progress their characters.
None of this is to say that VOL. 3 is a hopeless record. On tracks such as “Throwin’ Money,” experimentation pays off as Trav and Ceno are given a beat ripped right off of Yung Lean’s UNKNOWN MEMORY, crooning and flexing over it more skillfully than Jonatan Leandoer Hastad ever could. “Spazz On Ya” sees Trav and Ceno rapidly spit in a virtually seamless fashion, verses feeling liquid and endlessly malleable (although it does have an uncredited feature that manages to nearly grind the entire thing to a screeching halt). And of course, “What You Sayin” and “Foreign” feel ripped right from Vol. 2, with all of the hedonistic joy that that classifier entails.
However, the most memorable track by a moonlight mile is “Eaters,” one of the most gleefully bizarre outings attempted by remotely pop-friendly hip hop. A sonic palette is ripped right from a video game before being corrupted and scratched by a steady glitch background. Tenderly mechanical vocals whirr and chug over the mix before devolving into the most melancholic of sing-song hooks. Robotic, cloying, and oddly emotional, tracks like this are what make the strongest case for Sicko Mobb as innovators and pioneers.
SUPER SAIYAN VOL. 3 feels undeniably more artistic than its predecessors, but lacks the singular aesthetic that established Sicko Mobb as a 2015 act to pay attention to. By merely transposing the preferred Auto-Tune vocals to cuts with production more immediately accessible to a mainstream audience, a large segment of the pair’s character is lost in the process. Although intermittently successful, there’s nothing present with a fraction of the instant appeal of career highlight “Own Lane.” In a roundabout way, VOL. 3 insists upon its creators as a one-trick pony that might be better off putting on the rodeo until it moves out of town.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend