You can't talk about rising stars in the US dance community without mentioning RL Grime. I mean, you can, but it'd be hard to take you seriously. Although it began as a bass-heavy side project meant to complement his house-centered moniker Clockwork, RL Grime has flourished to become Henry Steinway's main draw.
For the uninitiated, few things in music are as elusive as a well-crafted electronic full-length. Quicker hitting EPs and singles just fit the culture better – they get done faster, require less cohesion and diversity, and whet fans' thirst more readily. So when I heard RL Grime was coming out with Void, you'll have to forgive my apathy. It wasn't a knock on his ability - his skill behind the boards is matched only by his skills behind the decks – My reaction said more about the rare task at hand.
Fresh off seeing Grime deliver a main-stage clinic on how to spin a trap set, my anticipation for VOID was heightened, if only slightly. I had no doubt the album would feature heavy tunes fashioned with top-level production, but throwing together a bunch of random tunes is child's play. Can he craft a thematic piece of work that flows from front to back? So as one of the most anticipated debuts in recent history drops, I got to work dissecting. Track by track, beat by beat, here's RL Grime's Void.
This track is the cinematic intro you would expect from a budding EDM superstar. Full-lengths separate the amateurs from professionals (especially true in electronic music), so you better nail the intro. You only get one shot to set a tone, build the anticipation, and not start your piece off with an instant skip. With that said, we're off to a good start – melodic vocals clue you in on what might be the answer to 'When does RL Grime surpass expectations?'
"Danger" ft. Boys Noize
No idea this collab was in the works but this finds the established legend meeting a legend in the making. "Danger" is all over the place without ever losing itself, morphing from deep house to tech over to trap to fuck-it-who-cares-what-genre-it-is turning into just sittin' back and observing masters at work. This tune rides clean and is a rare beast of an electronic track that goes hard while making you want to kick back and twist one up.
This one's been out for a few weeks now and when it first came out, I thought "Ah, generic RL banger, what else you got, SoundCloud feed?" Hearing this in the conext of the album coupled with seeing this on the mind-blowing main stage at Day of the Dead has given me a whole new appreciation for this big, bassy track. You know an artist is spoiling you when you consider this a 'generic' tune for them.
"Kingpin" ft. Big Sean
Oooo this got that Egyptian steez going… wait a minute, what is that? No… it can't be… right as things are getting good, a wild Big Sean appears and ruins this otherwise promising track. If any aspiring producers are listening – the fastest way to tarnish your labor of love is by sticking an overrated, pint-sized rapper on it. This album was going off without a hitch before he went and included rap's annoying little neighbor kid on an anthem fit for pharaohs.
This stand-out cut has RL bringing bass aficionado Djemba Djemba in the mix. The classic breaks lead you to believe you're welcoming some drum & bass, then the drop hits and you're nodding your head to a G'd-out slapper. Just like that, the Big Sean misstep is a thing of the past and we're back on track. This one's going in the rotation.
The track that got the Void hype train going in full motion – and rightfully so. What can I say that you don't already know, "Core" has been abusing subs, clubs and stages everywhere for months, spawning numerous imitation tracks in the process. Even on the 100th listen this track still goes hard, replay-value-game strong w/ this joint.
This one showed up on Grime's Halloween mix. Its not a terrible song, but borders on forgettable. Haven't had to reach for the skip button yet, but now's a good time to break it out.
"Reminder" ft. How to Dress Well
After wisely leading w/ the heavy, I'm sensing a mood-shift in the works and the Justin Timberlake-lite crooner is a dead giveaway that the shift is underway. We knew coming into this that RL can craft bangers with the best of them, so let's see how he does with the softer side of things. With 3 tracks left, this has become the leading candidate for favorite track of rave bunnies everywhere.
"Site Zero/The Vault"
He's pulling out all stops as the down-tempo deepens by way of ambient vibes. This makes me want to munch on some shrooms in the dead of night while wistfully gazing out over the crashing waves that provide the opening texture of this song. Not my normal cup of tea but I can't hate on this track, niche music at its finest. The dark switch-up at the end plays well.
Oh shit, here's the drum & bass alluded to earlier, but there's no switch up once the breaks kick in this time around. This tune harkens back to early 90s jungle vibes. Here's hoping more producers re-embrace this lost sound. This is the 1st jungle-inspired track from the Grime that I'm aware of and while it may fly over the heads of much of his fanbase I'm actually thoroughly impressed.
The triumphant conclusion to a dope debut. An album rife with excellent production is rounded out with a celebratory nod to his native land. Take your victory lap RL – you deserved it.
At this point in time it's clear this guy oozes talent. Don't pigeonhole RL Grime into the trap category, as he's much more than that and that's not a slight to the genre – it's saying more about the artist. The album hits on an array of sounds and never gets over-ambitious. We can drop the 'rising' part when mentioning RL Grime's place as a star. He's arrived.