A series of fleeting moments of genius while the conventional remains undeterred...

The sensation of Roddy Ricch in early 2020 was a beautiful thing. As his debut album had pop stars on their knees, it was the confirmation of the out-of-the-box superstardom Ricch had from the beginning. He had just two mixtapes prior to his major-label deal, and enjoys a relatively concise solo discography he seems resistant to saturate. Adding another chapter to the catalogue just before the year’s end, he also enjoys having the 2021’s biggest album release this side of Adele. Shy to reveal too much before d-day, he disclosed only a title, artwork and lead single in the form of ‘late at night’. The track continues where ‘High Fashion’ left off, a chilled cruiser with the trademark Mustard snap that turns out to be an album highlight in full context. Although this is not the highest compliment, as 'LIVE LIFE FAST' unfolds as a series of fleeting moments of genius and far more frustrating red lights.

As the pensive intro relays, the value of time is often foremost in Ricch’s mind. Aside from his incredible features, he remained a spectre in hip-hop after the success of 'Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial' as he plotted the course that led to this new record. Though he’s been taking it slow, the core of his music remains the same. He’s still in the business of making hits in the most saturated lane of music outside of white pop stars ripping off disco music.

First track proper ‘thailand’ and finale ‘25 million’ are the two obvious firestarters, but are dampened by Ricch holding back in his performance. He doesn’t feel the need to attack the tracks in any new ways on LLF, there’s no new moves or showstoppers. Moreover, the faux-oriental beat on ‘hibachi’ you will have heard a thousand times before, and ‘moved to miami’’s is an unaffecting banger whose most notable performance is an absolutely sozzled Lil Baby barely keeping pace by the end.

It’s not all misses, though. The production of ‘all good’ tingle the brain with marshy textures as Ricch dishes out brilliantly zesty lines such as “I’m a high maintenance n***a, compliment my nails”. ‘Rollercoastin’’s chorus has a contagious melody à la Young Thug, and the flexes on the hook of ‘don’t i’ are coolly devastating: “I got your bitch on lock, don’t I?” The crown jewel of the piece, though, is the scintillating back-and-forth between Ricch and Migos’ Takeoff on ‘paid my dues’. The two levitate over an extraterrestrial beat that transports them inside the active reactor core of a UFO, and it’s a marvel to hear.

Some of the musicality that peers through on 'LIVE LIFE FAST' has the potential to be its biggest strength. In fitting with the theme, he takes his time with organic outros on nearly every track, and some adventurous intros, too. ‘moved to miami’ introduces itself with breakbeat drums and sour jazz chords. Hearing it is almost surreal, as it feels like something off a BADBADNOTGOOD album, but has zero relation to the core track, which stresses the larger issue. The outer edges of this album are impressive, but why couldn’t they penetrate the main parts of these songs and this album more? Instead, they are eye-opening but ultimately useless ideas that must make way for the dry 808 beats we’re all too familiar with.  

That’s the critical theme of the album, ironically - a record about the value of time cutting short its most ambitious moments. The missed opportunities like Kodak Black’s invigorating feature ‘hibachi’, that was a perfect marriage gone far too soon. Equally, ‘Bibi’s Interlude’ is bewitching 50 seconds that will haunt me as aggressively as Frank Ocean’s ‘Fertiliser’ interlude from Channel Orange.

The one that truly got away, though, is ‘slow it down’. Prefaced by a voice message from Jamie Foxx referencing his classic tune with Kanye ‘Slow Jamz’, Ricch is compelled to add to the list of iconic slow jams and does so exceptionally. He conjures an elegant soul track with caramel Isley Brothers bass and beatific vocal harmonies. Yet, in a puzzling disruption of the album’s flow, the track ends after just 54 seconds. Days before release, Ricch issued a “no skips” policy, but the ending of ‘slow it down’ breaks his own rule.

But of course, we’ve got to have the compulsory drill track in the form of ‘murda one’, because that little expedition couldn’t be let off the 2021 hip-hop album checklist. There’s a lot of brief chunks of sound to appreciate on LIFE LIVE FAST, but its best moments aren’t pounced upon, rather left to be criminally-short what-ifs while the conventional remains undeterred.

On the track ‘no way’, Roddy Ricch raps the line “ever seen a rat turn into a snake, like-” and cuts off what based on the rhyme scheme should be 6ix9ine’s name. He refrains from fully firing the shots at the infamous rapper, sex offender and “snitch”, which disrupts the song’s flow and is honestly a worse look than a subliminal bar. If you’re going to throw an explicit 6ix9ine line in, you should at least have the courage to say his name, especially when he’s already a clay pigeon at this point. This issue is almost a poetic reflection on the project as a whole. Roddy Ricch is not bold enough to actually commit to these musical ventures, just like he’s not bold enough to commit to saying his name on record. On his sophomore album, he’s writing checks that his end product sadly cannot cash.


Words: Nathan Evans // @nayfun_evans

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