Perhaps most known for producing The Weeknd’s “Initiation” from Echoes of Silence, the enigmatic producer DROPXLIFE looks set to be an important arm of The Weeknd’s XO Crew. That track has consistently stood out for me, with its pitch-bent, wild-eyed vocal machinations and absorbing, foreboding textures, as particularly exemplary in its ability to disturb while set among a dense forest of dark production on that record. One look at Drop’s paranoid, insular Twitter feed (“Health benefits of heroin: pain relief, sedation,” “I have no one I need to lie to”) creates a cohesion between his music and the image of himself that he wants to propagate to the world. As long as this is all we have to go on, then it’s feasible to believe that this XO-created image of fame-fueled emptiness is in fact reality, the same as with someone like Burial — the quiet guy in the hoodie eating alone in the corner of the chip shop could be HIM. We are only left to our assumptions based on what we are fed.
The production styles on this totally instrumental mixtape predictably only loom in the shadows, as averse to the sunshine as a junkie vampire or just someone who stays up way too late producing music. A relation to cloud rap is apparent on virtually all of the tracks here, but to confine Further to a school of Clams Casino acolytes would be unfair. Tracks like “DROPXENT,” “1STXFLR,” and “STILLXSHOTS” exude a strong trip-hop influence, showing a cinematic eye similar to late-90s Massive Attack or Tricky. In fact, whereas the trip-hop of that time brimmed with pre-millenial tension, there is quite a bit of pre-2012 tension here, a let’s-just-drive-it-off-the-cliff resignation present in so much of the electronic/bass music of the moment.
There are also plenty of nods to hip-hop from the distant past. “FURTHUR” and “REDXBLOOR” show a hint of Dilla’s dusty loops and chipmunk vocals. “MADEXMEN” loosely recalls Dr. Dre’s “Next Episode” in its chiming phrases, and “NUERXOLD” samples How To Dress Well in a perfect alchemy of icy 90s R&B-influenced production. From front to back, it’s easy to lose yourself in the chiaroscuro of production values suited for late-night, cityscaped train rides or significantly bleak and grayed environs.
DROPXLIFE’s music sits fortuitously at the intersection of several currently in-fashion or re-fashioned styles, the combination of which — existing on a single document, at this particular moment in time — makes more than a fair bit of sense in that they are all ultimately dark, urban, and introspective. Drop’s tendency to smother his tracks with a nocturnal blanket is successful in terms of consistency, but ultimately lacks the definitively authoritative stamp of other like-minded producers; although Clam’s initial offering, Rainforest, was pillowy yet over-driven, it helped us to get to know him a little better. Further arrives relatively polished by comparison and defines itself mostly as an addition to the already established Weeknd/XO narrative of depravity and decay in the champagne room and among monochrome dirty concrete.