Sometimes Atlanta’s Bktherula cuts raging headbangers big and polished enough for her city’s mainstream machine. Other times, the 19-year-old’s songs are melodic and ethereal, with a demo feel that has more in common with the local underground scene. On his pretty funny 2020 mixtapes—Nirvana and Love Santana– this versatility looked cooler on paper. The problem with both projects was that the lush tracks felt derivative, and his loving lyrics and mellow melodies weren’t interesting enough to raise records beyond. vibrations. Meanwhile, the hay was fully formed, triggered by a no-bullshit attitude and chaotic energy that too often vanished on his softer songs.
Bktherula’s latest album, Black Love, is her best yet because those two moods – upbeat and disruptive – blend into each other more seamlessly. “Hit Me” is hummable and at the same time it looks like Bk is ready to punch a hole in a wall. Likewise, Rxlvnd’s beat on “Ye Ho” is so spaced out that it could freeze you like sleep paralysis. Bk overlays the hazy instrumental with a hypnotic spell of adlibs – “eh”, “yeah”, “uh” – that have more impact than any lyrics she could have written for the song. “Incredible” produced by Digital Nas opens with a bang (“I run these bands and I get that hangover that’s what I had to do / You can’t call me Black now because bitch I’m crazy about you ”), and Bk raps as if she could tear a repertoire in half with her hands. The lyrics aren’t as memorable on “Through 2 U”, and they might even be bad (“Got all my niggas on the bus with me like Scooby Doo”), but the drums cut your ears and his punitive performance could inspire a flourishing frenzy of vandalism and destruction.
Black Love has its fluff, too. Bk coo half-heartedly about unspecific love on a Mac Demarco sample on “IDK What to Tell You,” a song apparently engineered in a TikTok lab to go viral. “Placement” is dragged down by the demonic filter Matt Ox puts on his voice and feels like he’s trying to be weird rather than actually weird. Then on “Nah” Bk hums to the sort of breezy Surf Gang beat that would typically go to BabyxSosa, but his whining tunes are tired. There seems to be a part of this album that wants to clean up the edges a little and get it immersed in the algorithm, but his music is more about his city than the internet.
What is more exciting Black Love is how so many feelings coexist on a track; It’s not as simple as similar vibey rappers like Ken Car $ on – and to a lesser extent Yeat – who swear they’re the ultimate rascals. On “Hide Your Hoe”, Bk is in love with someone and yet returns to his insignificant ways; she’s bitter and doesn’t give a damn about “She Choose Me”. These emotions may seem relatively straightforward, but it’s the wrinkle she’s missed too many times before and that rules now.
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