Reviews are a pain-free way of combining writing with what I love, in a way that generates interest. So I keep doing them loool.
Problematic World of Hip-Hop Hijinks
Supported by the singles ‘Hit’ and Neighbourhood Superstar’, ‘Better Than You’ is the newly released collaborative mixtape from American rappers DaBaby and YoungBoy Never Broke Again (aka. NBA YoungBoy).
The main aim of ‘Better Than You’ is to flaunt the wealth of rappers DaBaby and YoungBoy Never Broke Again - and it does just that.
‘Better Than You’ is an approximately 34-minute whirlwind tour of the hip-hop high life, with Cleveland, Ohio-born DaBaby and Louisiana’s YoungBoy Never Broke Again serving as our guides.
The rappers aren’t rewriting hip-hop’s rulebook on ‘Better Than You’. No one is ever going to spend time trying to decode the tape’s deeper meanings, because they wouldn’t find much. However, for a relatively touch-and-go release, it’s startling how much ground DaBaby and YoungBoy cover on it.
‘Better Than You’ is shameless, but it’s entertaining - the project’s pace is dizzying. Careening headfirst through a range of different auras and feels, DaBaby and YoungBoy don’t take anything too seriously.
The rappers use the mixtape to elaborate on a string of indiscriminate encounters with various groupies. They rap about indulging in life’s material luxuries, the streets’ ruthlessness and cutting their detractors down to size (literally). They call out the industry’s overall superficiality, and pledge loyalty to their respective long-term lovers, while also considering the potential of being betrayed by them.
DaBaby and YoungBoy impact as a united force for the mixtape’s duration. There are no moments on ‘Better Than You’ where DaBaby and YoungBoy sound uncomfortable or disjointed alongside each other. The pair’s frantic camaraderie makes it easy for them to sell their random hot takes on life to listeners, and for listeners to infiltrate their problematic world of hip-hop hijinks.
The mixtape features no other guest artists. This benefits ‘Better Than You’ because the pair’s combustible chemistry is pushed even further into the spotlight as a result. At best, DaBaby and YoungBoy are contagious on ‘Better Than You’.
With the showy charisma of a playboy, DaBaby has a slightly grounding effect on ‘Better Than You’. He’s a rhythmic and dogged presence, while YoungBoy is more tricky and unpredictable.
There are a number of occasions on ‘Better Than You’ where YoungBoy can be heard performing mumble rap verses, screeching quick-fire ad-libs and distorted crooning, all on one track. YoungBoy’s noteworthy singing vocals are repeatedly relied on to execute the release’s biggest hooks.
Any lasting appeal ‘Better Than You’ has can be attributed to the fact that anything one of the two rappers can’t do well, or doesn’t specialise in, the other one usually can - or at least help fill any void that’s been created.
It becomes clear on ‘Better Than You’ that both DaBaby and YoungBoy have more than a few personal stories to tell. It’s a shame the mixtape doesn’t fully explore them, like it does on ‘A Little To A Lot’. More substance on ‘Better Than You’ wouldn’t be as much fun as singles ‘Hit’ or ‘Neighbourhood Superstar’ are, but it might’ve helped the project leave a stronger long-term mark.
‘Better Than You’ is absolutely crammed with cheap thrills. The downside of this is that the release can sound worryingly throwaway at times. Admittedly, nothing on ‘Better Than You’ ever feels truly classic.
‘WiFi’ is underpinned by growling sub-bass sounds, it’s production is slow-footed. There are several other songs on ‘Better Than You’ that are more immediate. Nevertheless, ‘WiFi’ is rescued somewhat by the quick charisma of DaBaby and YoungBoy.
Aggravated by people who make comments about them over the internet, ‘WiFi’ willingly gives DaBaby and YoungBoy the space to flaunt their lyrical showmanship. The emcees charge through a series of refrains, lyrical attitudes and delivery stylings.
Like ‘WiFi’, ‘Little To A Lot’ is built upon fairly restrained production that’s brought to a different level by what DaBaby and YoungBoy do over it collaboratively. ‘Little To A Lot’ boasts some of the tape’s most confessional and autobiographical lyrics. Sometimes, the tune’s wordplay is so candid, it’s almost uncomfortable to listen to. The track’s mournful and memorable hook is held centerstage by YoungBoy’s effective singing.
Propelled by an onslaught of irritatingly catchy elements, ‘Turbo’ is a highlight. On ‘Turbo’, DaBaby and YoungBoy are heard rapping brashly about spending quick money, and manoeuvring even more speedily through multiple liaisons with members of the opposite sex. The tune’s buzzing momentum is easy to get caught up in.
The Mixtape’s Mischief
The instrumental of ‘BBL’ is challenging and interesting. Laced with warped sound bites and supported by sprite, off-kilter cheap-keyboard loops, ‘BBL’ can sound disjointed. That said, ’BBL’ is needed to offset and overhaul the project’s more predictable and unchallenging sections. In any case, both DaBaby and YoungBoy sound unruffled by the tune’s off-kilter backdrop and perform steadfastly over it.
There are many artists in the industry who could’ve done ‘Count On Me’ better than DaBaby and YoungBoy do on ‘Better Than You’. Still, the sentimentality that powers the cut ushers an inward-facing, humbled mood onto the track-listing. The tune’s reflective mid-tempo beatwork, and cascading guitar plucks bring a whole new dimension to the mixtape’s mischief.
The best thing about ‘Syracuse’ is that it’s not always easy to tell what’s happening on it - or what will happen next. The tune stands out, and shakes the mixtape up. At times, it even veers into experimental territory. Most notably, YoungBoy’s adrenalized performance is pitched up vocally for ‘Syracuse’. DaBaby and YoungBoy rap with relish about performing onstage, taking narcotics and spending millions.
Bursting At The Seams
Over leisurely production and slick rootsy guitar loops, the lyrics of ‘Creeper’ feature DaBaby and YoungBoy describing a lusty one night stand with an unnamed fan. The track’s lyrics are pretty candid. No one can accuse DaBaby and YoungBoy of being too subtle on it.
DaBaby comfortably takes the lead on ‘Creeper’ and can be heard spitting, “and it's even more f**ked up - she got a man. That lame-ass ni**a think she loyal, ni**a don’t know a thing.” ‘Creeper’ is kind of like a twisted, desecrated hip-hop take on a classic R&B slow jam. The sheer delight in DaBaby’s voice as he performs the track is palpable.
‘Head Off’ wastes no time getting started. Commencing quickly with a suspenseful anthemic, stirring instrumental, the cut’s brawny, blocky beats are gratifying to hear. DaBaby’s contribution to ‘Head Off’ is comparatively laid-back. YoungBoy on the other hand, kicks off his verse in a frenzied fashion, his bars virtually overlap each other. The emcee proceeds to use ‘Head Off’ to freely detail his unrelenting and cut-throat approach to making money.
Seemingly spoiled for choice and with zero self-consciousness, DaBaby and YoungBoy rap indulgently about sexually pursuing the females who orbit around them on ‘Bestie’.
‘Bestie’ offers nothing groundbreaking production-wise, but the tune’s presentation can feel precise. Also, the track’s warped, vocal loop is an insufferable ear-worm. ‘Bestie’ makes more sense the more it is played. Much hyperactivity is squeezed into the cut’s two-minute duration - it’s practically bursting at the seams.