Rav album review
I was introduced to the music of Rav my first year of college, courtesy of a friend who played a song of his with the wonderfully concise title, "You Fuckers Were Asking For This — Boin Edit." I don't know who "fuckers" are or why they deserve such vitriol, but it's exactly the kind of high-energy song I want to turn into a fine powder and inject as a solution straight into my arm. Over a year later I can still listen to it on repeat and never get tired of the sound.
Rav is a rapper and Twitch streamer of moderate acclaim. I honestly know almost nothing about him because the best source on his life is a fan-written page on fandom.wiki for some reason. Last week he released "LEAP," his ninth, or maybe seventh, or possibly sixth full-length album (it's hard to number his projects because many of his "albums" consist of collections of B-sides, plus one that's purely a collection of beats he uses in other songs?). It's the first project he's released since I started listening to him, which is exciting because now I get to review an album about a relatively unknown artist and make sure everyone knows that my music taste is just that quirky and underground.
The project marks a pretty distinct break in style from most of his other music. Rav seems to have let go of the hyperactive delivery, bright instrumentals, and high-pitched vocal samples that dominated his sound in earlier projects (and which drew me to his music in the first place). Nearly all of this album's nine tracks are subdued, moody, and extremely synth-heavy, with Rav delivering his lines in a low, raspy voice that draws the listener in as he walks us through his struggle to break out of harmful thought patterns. It certainly isn't his first time experimenting with this kind of sound; however, it is a bit of a leap, but I think the risk paid off.
A through-line of the album is the toxic relationship between him and his listeners, and the desperate need for external approval that develops when you live at the whim of your audience's music taste. It serves as a sequel to his 2020 project, "I'm on to Me," an album that loops back on itself to mirror his inability to get better. Three years later, he's not all that much better, but he's ready to take the leap that brings him out of these tendencies.
Because it's such a brief project, I'm gonna give you my thoughts on each of the nine tracks with a Fantano-style monologue.
"Post-timeskip clarity": This song is an appropriately heavy start to the album. The drums and bass are concussive, and the synths create an especially ominous vibe underneath the layers of aggressive vocals. That said, I'm pretty sure that in the hook he misspells "melancholy" with two e's.
"Half-Silvered": While we catch our breath from the intro, the gentle electric piano arpeggios give Rav the room to explore his relationship with his audience in more depth — "when you step away from the glass I don't disappear / my life ain't an anecdote." This transitions immediately into
"In my Bag": The song he released ahead of the album, and for good reason. It feels like by far the most fleshed-out song, and is easily worth listening to on repeat.
"Agent Orange": This is the one real miss on the album. Not only is the hook about "corny rappers" not very congruent with the rest of the album, the weird, plinky two-note electric piano melody is just not very interesting. While it's not a sin to have a song that's stylistically distinct from the rest of an album (in fact, it's probably better when an album actually isn't homogenous), this one just doesn't really work.
"Worth 2": Featuring two long-time collaborators from his label, Exociety, this feels like the safest song on the album. It's the most quintessentially Rav, and fits well into the track listing.
"Incorporeal": This one sounds like it was designed to be listened to on some kind of substance.
"The Skin i Live in": This is a pretty good song. I'm starting to wonder how Fantano does this, because I have very little substance to say. Maybe this was a bad idea.
"CRYO": The arpeggios from "Half-Slivered" are echoed here, but pitched-shifted up. It's his second attempt on this album to establish the performer/audience divide, and this time he's more forceful and less patient with the audience. By having the penultimate track mirror the sound and themes of the second one, it gives the album a nice symmetry.
"Me, Forever": On the final track, Rav gives us his concluding thoughts over an absolutely beautiful instrumental. The steady, authoritative delivery and the self-reflection in his lyrics make it easy to imagine this one as the concert-ender. The lyrics are so steeped in references to his earlier songs and projects that I think I now understand what it's like to be a Swiftie. It's been in my heavy rotation ever since the album came out.
Taken together, the project is (mostly) sonically consistent and tells a very cohesive thematic story through the music. It comes in at a pretty short 30 minutes, but as Rav proved in 2015's "Beneath the Toxic Jungle" (just 31 minutes), he's more than capable of putting out a great album in a short timeframe. Some of the individual songs leave a lot to be desired, but I feel hesitant to air out my criticism too harshly considering that the toxicity of the performer/audience relationship is such a major theme of the album.
"I'm me, just enough / The toxic jungle is just above / and only I decide when I go up / Me"