Sicko Mobb Super Saiyan Vol. 2

[Self-Released; 2015]

Styles: bop, sugar rush
Others: D-Low, Lil Kemo, We Invented the Bop

Much like the drill rappers and producers of the Windy City, the nascent bop movement is inextricably tethered to the Chicago underground that birthed it. But while some of drill’s most infamous practitioners — Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Lil Reese, etc. — eventually found themselves on major labels, there hasn’t been anything remotely close to a similar breakout moment for bop, in spite of the relatively poppy ambitions of its operators. The nihilistic sound of drill is a worldwide sensation; bop’s aggressively cheery aesthetic, meanwhile, has barely received nationwide recognition and very much remains a localized phenomenon.

Perhaps, then, Sicko Mobb and Super Saiyan Vol. 2 will go some way toward bringing bop to a wider audience. As the clear frontrunners of the genre, the duo of Lil Trav and Lil Ceno have been responsible for some of its most crucial output to date. Vol. 1 was critically lauded upon release in late 2013/early 2014, and they sustained the forward momentum throughout the past calendar year with an onslaught of singles, features, and contributions (most notably on DJ Moondawg’s scene-surveying We Invented the Bop compilations). With a definitive article under their belts in a scene where very few actually exist, it’s clear to see why the Mobb stand out from their contemporaries.

Incredible as Trav and Ceno’s inaugural effort was, Vol. 2 ups the ante on its predecessor in just about every single department. Bop is often compared to juke and footwork, largely because both have well-established dance cultures, but it’s also because of the rapid-fire BPMs and frenetic energy contained within their respective recordings. Such propulsive vitality was evident throughout Super Saiyan Vol. 1’s tracklist, and while it’s still characteristic for much of this set, there’s a more contemplative, mellow air about the Mobb. Lead single “Kool-Aid” is a case in point; a bright, sun-kissed cut replete with a nostalgia-inducing Nelly sample, the track represents Sicko at their most accessible juncture yet. This newfound crystalline veneer permeates the rest of the tape — there can be no complaints leveled at it regarding tinny sound quality or muddy mixing, as was the case with Vol. 1.

That’s not to say the rest of the mixtape follows the breezy “Kool-Aid” template. Sicko Mobb haven’t forgone any of the intensity that made them such an intriguing proposition to begin with, and the slow-burners are certainly in the minority. Their vocals, as per Vol. 1 and the bop scene at large, are auto-tuned to giddying levels, and the effect is one of disembodiment rather than depersonalization; a variety of interjections, including the famed “skeee” ad-lib, leave the listener in little doubt of their personal flair and artistic identity. Lyrically, the Mobb exhibit a more introspective, measured side as they acknowledge their rise to prominence; tracks like “Penny HardAway,” with its refrain of “We became superstars today” and pretty much the entirety of “Trending Topic” are as personal as Sicko’s music is ever likely to get. But even so, they still have their sights firmly fixated on the party throughout much of the mixtape, with “Drugs in Me,” “Orange Flat,” and “Double Cups” indulging their absurd temperament and sugar-rush flows to a substantial degree.

Taken as a whole, Super Saiyan Vol. 2 is a consistently exhilarating and somehow never exhausting experience. Sicko have refined their craft, doling out a shot in the arm to dance and rap circles in the process. With just a single feature — Rockie Fresh on “Drugs in Me” — Trav and Ceno are left to actualize their own technicolored flotsam of heavily-treated musings, sickly-sweet synth patches, and up-tempo rhythmic elements. Some commentators have already sounded the death knell for bop, placing serious doubt in the longevity of a genre constructed mainly around and for a passionate clique of dancers. But Super Saiyan Vol. 2 gleefully overturns that notion. This isn’t a mere flag-flying act of defiance on behalf of the genre: instead, it’s a manifesto of sheer euphoria, a singularly compelling addition to the broader hip-hop conversation, and proof that bop (or, at the very least, the Mobb themselves) won’t be consigned to the pile of digital ephemera quite so easily.

Links: Sicko Mobb

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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