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If there was any knock against Roddy Ricch on his debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, it’s that so much of it sounded like somebody else. He wasn’t shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve. Whether he sounded like Young Thug or he sounded like Lil Wayne, much of Antisocial was the sound of an artist who’d arrived at the highest echelon of rap stardom — thanks in large part to the dominant single “The Box” and his affiliation with Nipsey Hussle on “Racks In The Middle” — still figuring out who he wanted to be.
On his new album, Live Life Fast, not only is he a year removed from his debut and the furor surrounding it but he has also had, like many of us, a year away from the routines of life. He’s had time to contemplate himself, his newfound fame, his role in the world, the effects of the traumas he spent most of that album describing. That sort of self-reflection is rarely afforded to artists of Roddy’s standing and trajectory, and the results are, if nothing else, intriguing to hear.
Admittedly, without having any record as immediately explosive as “The Box” on Live Life Fast, the new project is likely to be a much slower-burning sort of hit, one driven by its multi-layered songwriting and production inspiring repeat listens rather than the massive success of one or two singles that strangle radio and playlists for months on end. He still alternates between that yowling, yelping, strained vocal delivery and the clipped, terse rhythmic one throughout the new album, but he’s got some new things to say.
Time and adversity have a way of shifting your perspective but usually, in hip-hop, we don’t get so much of it all at once. The end result is a more introspective version of Roddy on tracks like “Crash The Party,” on which he rhymes, “The tour life got me in light so I can see / I ain’t never choose this shit, it came to me.” When the song ends on a contemplative recollection of a low point in his life walking through some of the most dangerous hoods in Compton (if you know, you know), he truly conveys the sense of how far he’s come — and how bewildering it can be for someone who once defined his world’s borders by a quartet of freeways.
Here also, rather than aping his influences, he salutes them while striving to distinguish himself as his own unique artist. There are nods to Kanye West’s productions on album intro “LLF” which borrows the hook from Rick Ross’ “Live Fast, Die Young” and the prelude to “Slow It Down,” which brings in Jamie Foxx to reprise his monologue on Kanye’s “Slow Jamz.” Instead of adopting Fivio Foreign’s flow on the New York drill swing “Murda One,” he wrangles the track to his own will, resulting in a better drill track than most New Yorkers have managed in the past two years.
The production here has an expansive, eclectic quality; check out the jazz riffing on “Moved to Miami” with Lil Baby, which lends the gritty content a luxurious sheen. However, Roddy still proves to be adept at coming up with catchy hooks over bouncy, trap-forward stuff as well. On “Don’t I” with frequent collaborator and fellow Thugger student Gunna, Roddy raps some of his cleverest lines, boasting, “Had to put some privacy trees around the villa ’cause I know the nеighbors too nosey,” and dissing “Chatty Patties” on the internet.
All of this growth, of course, bears with it the risk of throwing off fans who perhaps expected more epic production in the vein of “The Box” or Antisocial closer “War Baby,” or lyrics that reflected the itchy, paranoid vibe of the prior album. Instead, they’ll hear Roddy’s thoughts on growing in a relationship, becoming a father, and experiencing real wealth without the penitentiary chances that defined his early output. To those fans, I’d say: Give Roddy’s latest a chance, and it might change your mind as much as its process has apparently changed Roddy.
Live Life Fast is out now via Atlantic. Listen to it here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.