Whilst the Odd Future label lives strong, the group’s members have dispersed over the last four years to work on their own projects, with Tyler, The Creator putting the nail in the coffin earlier this year and confirming Odd Future was no more. One of the From the successors of these new directions was Syd the Kid and producer Matt Martians, with their neo-soul project The Internet; whose critical acclaim initially appeared to be based on Odd Future nepotism rather than their musical substance. But with the arrival of their third studio album Ego Death, the West Coast crew have finally converted their potential. It is a vast improvement on their previous work, with the evolution and maturing of the group the main story of the album.
Syd’s lyrical content seems one-geared at times- with her common reference point the yearning for the attention of a girl. Her vocals jerk between being sweetening and slightly horizontal, with lines often being carried by an almost conversational tone. It’s at this conversational end that Syd has been able to find her niche and really hook the listener into her world.
A tendency to leave tracks sparse can be dangerous, because it leaves poor instrumentation out to dry. Their past work was dominated with noisy off-kilter percussion which covered out the imperfection in the other layers of the music. But for the most part on this album, the percussion takes a backseat with a minimalistic kick/snare being used, and the space instead is taken up by winding (and at times thumping) bass-lines. The jazz keys offer plenty for a listener, and the differing use of guitar is intriguing as they switch between a rock, jazz and blues feel. Short tracks like ‘Get Away’ and ‘Special Affair’ capture the listener’s attention immediately and hold it throughout, whereas longer tracks like ‘Penthouse Cloud’ and ‘Just Sayin/ I Tried’ churn a groove to the end of its tether, right before laying down a similarly smooth beat change.
Ego Death’s main drawcard is the Kaytranda-assisted centrepiece, ‘Girl’. A thick bass line rolls through the single; cosmic keys slung throughout as Syd reserves the best vocal to compact them into the track. Once the line, “Tell them you’re my girl” starts circulating around your head, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. This record is the moment they cross the line from abstract hip-hop to a full-fledged neo-soul records that croons its way into your head. There’s only room for rapping features from Vic Mensa and Tyler, the Creator, whose input is smart and innovative. The last track to appear on the album, ‘Palace/Curses’, is where Tyler pops up and it feels as though it came straight off his album Cherry Bomb, which kind of feels out of place on this album.
It might not be an album that shatters any ground, but Ego Death polishes The Internet’s concepts into a decent record informed by a plethora of genres and funnelled into a palatable neo-soul fusion.