A difficult task for any reviewer is discussing a project which has all of the bells and whistles and potential to be great, but misses every mark completely. Do you discuss the efforts despite of its shortcomings, or do you ignore what was clearly attempted, and instead focus on what is presented?
This is the quandary I am having right now, Felix Is’s 2017 Rap/Hip-Hop EP This Was Scribbled has everything a Soundcloud project needs to stick out as “artful” and “deep”, its production and beats are very lo-fi without ever feeling tied to the cliche trend of “lo-fi hiphop”, the flow is decent, sometimes even interesting, and the album maintains an overall mood of bashfulness, and boastfulness If all these things were true of the EP, and executed exactly right, we’d have a decent, but forgettable project. Unfortunately, the reality is far worse.
Right off the bat I noticed how much I loathed the rappers voice and style, he hits all the right beats, his flow is practiced and concise, but he raps with the fervor of a child scorned – sitting lone in his bedroom, mom and dad in the bedroom next door – there is a “don’t wake anybody up” vibe oozing from all of these tracks. Especially evident on the choruses where Felix Is attempts a sort of whisper-singing, crooning quietly into what is surely his phone’s mic. He seems to be aware that his vocals are subpar, hiding them deep in the mix and autotuning them, but I wish he would have sang out and tried harder, his lack of effort only accentuated an already poor performance.
Not much can be said about the beats either, they perfectly fit the style of music this is, complementing the vocals nearly perfectly – I can’t say for certain that this is a good thing, some songs remind me of the softer cuts from Childish Gambino’s own misguided debut Camp, songs like Castle reminding me specifically of Kids, with its soft and melancholic sample underneath a snappy, staccato-laden beat. These beats, for all of their originality (with the exception if the truly unexceptional Japanese) lack any sort of weight or staying power. They’d feel more at home with a stark, grim social commentary, or an emotional self-reflection, here they serve as cutesy distractions and little else.
Which brings me to my final point, the nearly abysmal lyricism. If there was ever a time where I would say “please just say something stupid and funny” this would be it, the lines border on the serious and sombre with the goofy and comical, never quite crossing into either territory, leaving me feeling underwhelmed and dissonant. Listening a person whisper-growl “rocket ship/imma dip” or “better dip with you goop ass” is hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
In the end, This Was Scribbled feels much like its name suggests – a scribble – a half-hearted, half-assed sketch on the margins of a notebook, outlined in pen. It is, at a glance, a deceitful portrait, appearing to have all of its lines in the right place. What could be a harmless, but interesting effort ends up being the longest 20 minute rap EP I’ve ever heard.
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/felixisofficial/sets/this-was-scribbled-1