Chance the Rapper’s critically acclaimed but pretty hit-and-miss. Vic Mensa ain’t that great. Who the fuck is Tokyo Shawn? All in all, the rappers involved with Chance’s Chicago rap collective SaveMoney just haven’t been able to compete with hip-hop titans like of Odd Future, Pro Era, or GOOD Music. Someone needs to step up. Could that person be young rapper Joey Purp?

Joey first entered the public eye with the release of his debut mixtape The Purple Tape (2012), a lackluster cloud rap effort. Since then the Chicago native joined SaveMoney and has been dipping more heavily into trap rap with trashy singles like “Morgan Freeman” (2015). _D__9928-3Needless to say, Joey Purp seemed an unlikely choice to be the savior of SaveMoney, but his second mixtape iiidrops (2016) said otherwise. The album sees Joey employing a new musical direction. Deviating from his trap rap sound, Joey opts for a clean, straightforward approach to pop rap on iiidrops.

The production on Joey’s mixtape, primarily handled by Knox Fortune, Peter Cottontale, and Thelonious Martin, is simple and minimal yet memorable. The tinny, abrasive trap rap beats on Joey’s recent singles are replaced with vintage boom-bap drums and bright, swaggering horn arrangements.

The heavy, thumping drumbeat, triumphant trumpet lines, soulful choir, and ad-lib “whoops” and “yelps” on the opening track “MORNING SEX” exude a mood of celebration. Lyrically Joey details the hardships and dangers of the Chicago hood. Through this paradox of celebration and strife, Joey seems to be taking his painful experiences and flipping them into a form of empowerment; perhaps he is embracing these struggles as what made him who he is today.

iiidrops continues with a bare-bones yet bumping beat on the second track “GIRLS @”.The song’s lack of any other instrumentation leaves room for Joey to steal the show with one of the most infectious rap hooks of the year, delivered with a deep, relaxed inflection. Additionally, I love the vocal lines spliced to create a tuneful hook on the song “ESCAPE” and the clunky, mysterious piano and Joey’s crunchy, distorted vocals on “SAY YOU DO”.

“PHOTOBOOTH” is a production highlight on the album. The track features wonky siren synths, punchy snares, massive bass drums, sweet trumpet swells, and a groovy, bangin’ rhythm.

iiidrops bolsters a variety of the sonic flavors, such as the menacing bassy groove and sour piano chords on “GODBODY”, as well as the light, ethereal neo-soul vocals reminiscent of Frank Ocean on “CORNERSTORE”. However, several of the mixtape’s beats, namely those on “MORNING SEX”, “MONEY & BITCHES”, joey-purp-saba-themind-cornerstore-iiidrops“CORNERSTORE”, and “WINNER’S CIRCLE”, convey a very similar aurora of somber exaltation. These cuts employ like production styles, utilizing moderately-paced boom-bap percussion and grand, epic horns or synths. While I love the beats on each of these songs, their instrumental similarities grow repetitive and begin to wear a bit thin as the mixtape moves along.

A major production blemish rears its head on the track “KIDS”. The mixtape’s one true trap rap song, “KIDS” features a disgusting, distorted drumbeat, shrill synths, and unintelligibly autotuned vocals. The cut is hands down the mixtape’s ugliest moment.

Joey’s delivery on iiidrops is generally laid-back and tranquil, but his raspy flows are exceedingly flavorful, endearing, and above all, memorable. However, Joey’s rapping can become docile to a fault on songs like “MORNING SEX”, a track with extremely emotional,
heartfelt lyrical content in need of an equally emotional delivery. When Joey finally does dig into verses on “CORNERSTORE” and “GODBODY”, raising his gruff voice in intensity until it begins to crack, the results are truly magical.

Although Joey demonstrates an exceptional ear for developing catchy rapped hooks, (the ones on “GIRLS @”, “MORNING SEX”, “MONEY & BITCHES”, and “PHOTOBOOTH” come to mind), he never bothers with fast, flashy flows characteristic of modern hip-hop, opting instead for simple metrical verses akin to 90s rap music. The focus remains on his words.

On iiidrops, Joey explores two distinct sides of himself lyrically. One personality plays to the pop appeal of iiidrops beats and hooks, as Joey engages in the boasting and debauchery characteristic of pop rap Joey-Purplyrics. On “PHOTOBOOTH” & “GIRLS @”, Joey raps about the women in his life, displaying his clever wit and kooky personality with lines like “She say she never did it with the lights on/Baby we gon’ see”. The song “GODBODY” has Joey gloating over his rap skills in classic hip-hop braggadocious fashion.

Joey’s decadent lyricism takes a bad turn on “SAY YOU DO”, where his approach to describing dirty women becomes less witty and more aimless and idiotic. Still, Joey’s flows and hook on the track are great fun to listen to.

The lyrics on iiidrops also manifest a more profound, thought-provoking, darker side of Joey. The verses on “MORNING SEX” detail the ways Joey believes he can use his rap career and considerable wealth to protect his mother and daughter from hood violence. The song “CORNERSTORE” has Joey fervently justifying crime as a means to get by in the dangerous Chicago hood. He even goes so far as to blame dominant society’s oppression for these sins.

The mixtape’s third track “MONEY & BITCHES” includes perhaps my favorite Joey Purp rhymes. He seems to be offering an explanation for the materialistic content of modern rap music that even he is guilty of employing. Joey asserts that “money and bitches” are the primary forms of empowerment that African Americans seek because governmental and societal oppression have prevented them from acquiring legitimate forms of power. This song essentially serves to reconcile Joey’s shallow, worldly pop rap personality with his heady conscious hip-hop side.

Joey sticks to a generally straightforward approach to lyricism; he tells you exactly what he’s thinking rather than shrouding it in metaphor and mystery. Yet his words are still oddly poetic, like on the track “WINNER’S CIRCLE” when Joey raps “You killin’ niggas in your hood, you the KKK?/ What’s the difference between you and them?”. Blunt. To the point. Effective.

All in all, iiidrops is a major and much needed success for SaveMoney. Joey Purp masterfully merges the pop rap and conscious hip-hop genres, providing for a listen that is equal parts viscerally provocative and thought-provoking.

 

Overall: B+

Instrumentation/Production: B+

Lyrics: B

Melody/Hook: B+

Performance: B-

Mixing: A-

Highlights: PHOTOBOOTH, GIRLS @, MORNING SEX, MONEY & BITCHES, CORNERSTORE, GODBODY

Key Lyrics:

“Counting bucks still slave to the money” from “MORNING SEX”

“She say she never did it with the lights on/Baby we gon’ see” from “GIRLS @”

“They taught us accept your position, the bottom’ll fit you” from “MONEY & BITCHES”

I’m just a product of integration/Call immigration all my relations is interracial” from “PHOTOBOOTH”

“If the devil wears Prada than my bitch been sinning” from “PHOTOBOOTH”

“Had a dream I wasn’t stacking, I woke up screaming and gasping” from “CORNERSTORE”

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