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Father's latest project of nighttime laboratory tinkering music is thrilling for those already initiated into the lore of Awful Entertainment. If Father's name means naught to you but the overarching villain of Kids Next Door, you'll find an endlessly complex, organic amalgamation of darkly sexy raps in Awful Swim. Father's mesmerizing world of background lyricism and icy ambience combine for a new outing that magnifies the strengths of his previous bodies of work, while boldly pushing in new directions at the same time. If rap was ever a mood, it's this shit right here.
Father spilled into the viral rap scene in 2014 with "Look At Wrist," really establishing him and his Awful Entertainment collective in 2015 with his orgasmic debut album, Who's Gonna Get Fucked First? Think of Odd Future's weirdness, but only sexier. Father was Tyler, the Creator's svelte doppelganger, trading in anarchist posturing for transfixing casual encounters between naked production and dizzying lyricism. Father could have talked the pants off of Maura Clarke if he had been given the chance.
While the Odd Future fandom and fervor created a necessary need for change from the group's controversial tendencies, Father and the Awful Entertainment collective avoided the spotlight; I'm not entirely sure if it was purposeful or not. Playboi Carti snuck off with Ian Connor to become one of rap's strangest roadside attractions but, in the world of Father and everything he touches, Playboi owed a lot of his aesthetic to the time spent under Father's wing. The group's remaining members retreated underneath the surface while Father continued to cultivate his growing aesthetic.
It's 2018 and by some odd turn of fate, Father isn't just an acquired taste anymore; he's the one creating the tastes. Much of SoundCloud's biggest rap stars of the last two years owe some of their creative success to Father carrying the torch for weird, but not morbid, trap-adjacent rap. Now that smooth and suave have become some of rap's go-to aesthetics, it's the perfect time to hear some colorful commentary from new-age rap's suave primogenitor.
Thus, arrives Awful Swim in all of its darkly sexy splendor. Father's voice is an instrument itself, lowly just above a whisper but with a commanding sense of entitlement. There are tons of shady used car salesmen that shout the details of the car they're attempting to get you to sign off on; you'll seldom find one who can relay the same energy in a calm and collected tone. Father could convince you to buy a 1992 Honda Civic with 310,000 miles and you would swear you just purchased a brand new 2018 Cadillac CT6.
Sophomore effort I'm A Piece of Shit signaled an evolving Father, a hedonistic druggy with a Santa sack of regrets. The album's obsession with the realization that "shit, I've fucked up" bleeds through Father's normally carefree shtick, being an early indicator that his propensity for change would evolve with time. But it didn't. Awful Swim comes after a break in which Father probably returned to the lifestyle of the Cyrenaics, if the music of Awful Swim is any indicator. Sex, in hues of deep purple and angry pinks, is the elephant in the room here and Father makes it sit on his face.
There are only so many ways to speak every which way about encounters of the nude kind before the ears begin to yawn and the listener anticipates cutting the music off in favor of something else. Here's where creativity comes into play: first, with backdrops that are particularly flavored, and stylistic flourishes that make songs not just music, but experiences. Father's music has always had this idea down to a science. But with Awful Swim, the illusion is strengthened. It's almost as if his vocals have been turned down and delegated to background duty. You can feel them rubbing your shoulders as the quiet funk of thick sexual energy radiates like musk through each track.
Awful Swim starts with disembodied moans and a barrage of nasally triplet flows on "Mirror, Mirror." Father's back in his bag, with intelligent sneaky quips that contribute a third of the track's prestige; the other two pieces are the anxiety-inducing beat and a thick cloud of ambience that exists between the booms and snaps of the percussion. As he does on other projects, Father manages to dismantle songs to the bone at the end, and pick one thread, replicating it into another song of increasingly grandiose splendor. "Boosie Fade" comes next and is built out of the same tantalizing foundational blocks as "Mirror, Mirror," but instead of looking at himself, Father stares at his naysayers inquiringly. He sounds surprisingly indignant here, in contrast to his normally passive demeanor, and it makes for one of the album's most interesting listens.
Sexy, soft, and slick are three words usually used to describe the sneakily luxe beats that Father frequents. But make no mistake; he loves to switch things up with a more irate, harsher sound. "We Had a Deal": is anything but sexy, beginning with a repulsive snort before turning into a mountain of insults aimed at his naysayers. What in reality lasts for two minutes, feels like it stretches on for five because of the production's ability to stretch the listener around the x-axis. "Only You" is an entrance into druggy Nirvana that forgoes amorphous, hazy production for blisteringly loud screaming from its instruments. This iteration of Father is eager to shed his suit-and-tie image by loosening the collar and tossing the tie.
Being that we receive multiple sides of Father on Awful Swim, it's understandable that there aren't that many features. Of the four that are there, they range from scene-stealing to wondering why they were even included. Rico Nasty's harshness on "On One" plays a nice contrast to Father's silky tongue, making their collaboration a bubbly highlight. "Lotto" features Abra, whose quick-hit verse makes for a filling chorus, but at the Auto-Tune is where I call it quits. It's quick, but immensely grating, ruining the song's replay-ability just a tad.
Underneath the new facets of Father in his ongoing quest to mine every creative particle from his brain lies the sexually-charged wordsmith that we know and love. When he's truly in his bag, he's at his calmest. "Dragons" is that old Father, for those who miss it, who floats over creepy production on a bed made of kush pillows. "Thotnite" uses its tongue-in-cheek chorus as a springboard for a sexually-charged, slightly oddball callback to early Father's knack for making sexy funny, while simultaneously remaining sexy.
That Awful Swim only truly falters when guests are introduced, showcases that Father's got a command on his shit. Each of his albums have been like the jump from Grand Theft Auto IV to Grand Theft Auto V; the foundation remains the same but the inclusion of new bells and whistles is meant to attract new audiences. Father knows what he does well and knows how to make it better. It's what makes Awful Swim an immensely gratifying, and sexy, listen. Father's back to being the life of the party and his music makes it clear that it's where he thrives the most at.
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