Trippie Redd is one of the brightest lights of the first wave of SoundCloud rap, the scene of boundary-pushing, genre-flouting teenagers who were on the cutting edge of music in the mid-2010s. From his debut mixtape, A Love Letter to You, he earned a reputation as an artistic maverick, equally curious exploring “Love Scars” as the cloudy trap of “Romeo & Juliet,” or even traditionalist rap on “Can You Rap Like Me?“
For the past seven years, he’s offered different parts of himself. 2020’s Pegasus was a jaunt through moody R&B, the Travis Barker-assisted Pegasus: Neon Shark vs Pegasus explored Top 40 rock, while 2021’s Trip at Knight was a trip back to SoundCloud heaven, buoyed by “Miss the Rage.” Trippie has returned to the same well on his latest project, Mansion Musik, bringing along the vastly influential Chief Keef to executive-produce the project. Their end result is a veritable museum of melody, as many of the game’s most renown crooners take turns going in over the album’s lengthy 25-track playlist.
Whether Trippie is exploring murky, minimalist beats, tapping into his inner Tom DeLonge, or fighting with the rambunctious synth-driven production that Mansion Musik is stocked with, one thing is for certain: His voice is going to soar. Trippie’s vocal skills are his defining attribute, and they’re exemplified to great effect on Mansion Musik. He’s belting for blood on the aptly-named “Fully Loaded,” with Future and Lil Baby. He matches the late Juice WRLD’s conviction on “Knight Crawler,” wailing “Don’t know where I’m from, don’t know where I’ve been” with the despondency of someone desperately seeking answers. On “Killionaire,” he proves he’s still got his fundamentals down, spitting with a relatively straightforward triplet flow that’s the closest he comes to appeasing traditionalists. On “Die Die,” Trippie goes through every approach at once, shifting gears every couple of bars. By putting 25 tracks on this release, he’s tasked himself with finding ways to keep things interesting over the course of a long album, and his vocal theatrics do their best. Even on his solo tracks, his active ad-libs and vocal variances make it sound like he’s going back-and-forth with himself.
Most of his peers hold up their end of the deal as well. Travis Scott delivers a winding verse on “Krzy Train” that veers from rapping to Auto-Tuned howls. Future further entrenches his reputation as a feature killer on his two appearances. Ditto for Lil Baby, though he sounds more invigorated on “Dark Brotherhood” than on “Fully Loaded.” On “Hideout,” Fijimacintosh’s heavy Auto-Tune makes him sound like he’s sinking into producer LOESOE’s cyber sonics. Rylo Rodriguez’s muddy Atlanta twang on “Witchcraft” provides one of the album’s most compelling textures. Chief Keef makes his presence felt on his two appearances, characteristically subverting listener expectations by jumping on a vocal contortionist’s album and rapping lucidly on “Rock Out.”
It’s great that Trippie reached out to Keef, a beloved forefather of SoundCloud rap. His fingerprints are all over the album. But even if they weren’t, Keef’s influence would still be present. So many listeners believe the spacey-trap soundscape that Trippie, Playboi Carti, and Uzi explore is a post-Whole Lotta Red creation, but that’s not quite true. Remnants of Mansion Musik’s production trace back to Keef’s mid-2010s output, including his 2017 Dedication project, where he linked with producers D. Rich and Stuntman to craft a suite of beats full of whirling synths and spastic drum programming that sound fit to score a Snow on tha Bluff and Star Trek crossover. That soundbed dominates Mansion Musik, with LOESOE, BOSLEY, NADDDOT, and UK24 collectively making the album a frenetic, unearthly experience around Trippie’s melodies. “DIE DIE” is an 8-bit hellscape. “Free Rio” meshes chilling electronic composition with Detroit drums. The seesaw synth loop on “Knight Crawler” grips listeners, with the engineer expertly melding their ad-libs into another instrument.
But all is not as perfect as it might seem in the Mansion. As compelling as Trippie’s vocals and production are, each track leaves the listener feeling like he could be doing more as a songwriter. There’s a misconception that melody-driven artists don’t prioritize bars, but that’s not necessarily true. Take Chief Keef himself, who’s prime to lace his vocal experimentation with a confounding line like “Had a dream and seen Eminem on lean.” Trippie’s character is felt through his vocal presence, and he’s a sound technical writer, but his actual content doesn’t veer beyond sexual conquests and tough talk. That alone isn’t a bad thing, but perhaps thematic expansion would have elicited more chances for compelling lyricism. Take his “Swag From Ohio” remake with Lil B. He’s on a track with the guy who rapped “Bitch suck my dick ‘cause I look like Frasier,” and doesn’t try to take any big swings lyrically. At the festivals and concerts Trippie headlines, DJs love dropping the beat on certain bars to let the fans scream it in unison; it’s questionable if there are moments like that on Mansion Musik.
But overall, Trippie’s unmistakable mic presence, and ear for beats make the highs of Mansion Musik an overall enjoyable experience.