Trippie Redd – A Love Letter To You 4

Trippie Redd is determined to prove himself. The post-genre rapper, singer and rebel is huge on streaming platforms, his bio full of statistics. And he commands a hardcore fanbase. But Trippie isn’t yet a hip-hop superstar to rival Travis Scott, Young Thug or Lil Uzi Vert. Happily, his latest mixtape, A Love Letter To You 4 (ALLTY4), could change that.

This month Trippie – aka Michael Lamar White IV, from Canton, Ohio in America’s rustbelt – will hit Australia for the first time. He’ll perform at the new FESTIVAL X, a collision of Stereosonic and Listen Out with its dance and urban music programming. Trippie is billed alongside Calvin Harris, Dutch trance lord Armin van Buuren, and German techno-type Paul Kalkbrenner – outrageously transgressive. Trippie will personally know at least two other acts: the Canadian producer Murda Beatz, who guides ALLTY4‘s ‘The Jungle Book’ (featuring Lil Wop), and Sydney’s Alison Wonderland (he appeared on her Awake album).

Trippie is recognised for many things. He infamously fell out with his controversial collaborator 6ix9ine in what was no ‘feud’ but a public disavowal. Then Trippie was meant to grace Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’, but missed the deadline due to pressure, a demanding tour schedule, and ‘flu’. Yet, crucially, he’s among today’s most expressive and experimental hip-hoppers, virtually branding his versatility. Still, critics have questioned Trippie’s focus. His projects occasionally sound hurried.

Trippie sprang on the scene as a cloud rapper only two years ago, circulating mixtapes. He was selected as one of the XXL 2018 Freshman Class – pivotal validation. Trippie’s aesthetic is pop-punk. While his rapper peers namedrop the likes of Nirvana, Trippie has actively imported punk, grunge and emo into cloud rap (impressively, he digs KISS). Trippie is obsessed with trap AND guitars. Lyrically, he vacillates between channeling the street balladeer, existentialist young millionaire and haunted party G. In fact, he has something in common with the ’90s’ gruff R&B vocalists like Aaron Hall and Jodeci’s K-Ci and JoJo Hailey, who sang soulfully about romance over thugged-out hip-hop beats. In 2018, Jack White, of all people, praised Trippie as exemplifying a new punk rock spirit in hip-hop.

Trippie has been unusually prolific even for a contemporary rapper, sublimating raw ambition into his studio output and exploiting virality as strategy. He introduced a hot mixtape series, A Love Letter To You, in 2017 and is now up to the fourth volume – with two out in the last 12 months alone. In the second half of 2018, Trippie premiered officially with the album LIFE’S A TRIP, led by his Travis Scott collab, ‘Dark Knight Dummo’. This past August, he followed with !. Alas, it was mired in minor internet controversy when soon after release Trippie mysteriously removed his song ‘They Afraid Of You’ with Playboi Carti from streaming platforms, fans wildly speculating that he was jelly over the response to the Atlantan. The album made #3 in the US but, as regrettably with a lot of digital music, promptly faded. Regardless, a stopgap such as ALLTY4 wasn’t necessarily.

Possibly, Trippie recorded ALLTY4 to maintain his career momentum. However, since several songs allude to fresh heartbreak – the star splitting from his rapper girlfriend Coi Leray – ALLTY4 is also about an unquantifiable catharsis. Trippie has long emphasised the relatability of his lyrics. And, as it happens, ALLTY4 is a defining work.

Much of ALLTY4 recalls Trippie’s early single, the angsty trap ‘Love Scars’, in sentiment. Launching the mixtape is ‘Leray’ – obviously inspired by Coi, with Trippie crooning over plaintive acoustic guitar. There are further melancholy, melodic love ballads in the embittered ‘Who Needs Love’, which deploys an Ed Sheeran-style guitar loop, and the trapsoul ‘Love Me More’ – both singles. ‘Love Sick’ is throwback ’90s R&B – K-Ci & JoJo for the Bryson Tiller gen.

The big alternative-hallmarked track is ‘Til The End Of Time’, which, in addition to echoing Young Thug’s ‘Tomorrow Til Infinity’, elevates Trippie’s singing voice. In contrast, Trippie rages on the industrial ‘The Grinch’, a Pi’erre Bourne instrumental. Especially surprising is ‘Death’ – less Trippie doing EDM, as he did with Diplo, than witch house (and sampling Three 6 Mafia). Here, Trippie is joined by DaBaby – surely 2019’s ubiquitous guest rapper, having blessed everything from Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Cash Shit’ to remixes of Lizzo’s ‘Truth Hurts’ and Lil Nas X’s ‘Panini’. Notably, ‘Death’ re-energises ALLTY4‘s second half.

Trippie has other guests. Rather than flex his growing clout, he has reached out to old associates, including Florida’s Smokepurpp. He brings in Juice Wrld and YNW Melly for the boastful ‘6 Kiss’ – ALLTY4‘s original opener on advance streams, but a song that unfortunately slides into toxic masculinity. Better is ‘This Ain’t That’ with Seattle teen Lil Mosey. The track emits the same energy as vintage G-funk, its mellow yacht rock atmospherics belying darker themes. Trippie ‘duets’ with Mariah The Scientist on ‘Abandoned’, the emerging Atlantan R&B singer the set’s sole conspicuous female presence. The unexpected cameo? French rapper Youv Dee on ‘Bust Down Deux’, a sequel to 2017’s ‘Bust Down’.

ALLTY4 might be more adventurously curated, and more consciously conceptualised. But, perhaps for Trippie, such an approach would undermine the project’s authenticity. Indeed, ALLTY4 may be for Trippie what 2016’s JEFFERY was to Young Thug – a mixtape that presents a statement of direction as a #mood.

A Love Letter To You 4‘ is out now.

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