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I don’t often talk about music on this blog, and when I do, its usually in relation to anime or video games. A lot of this is because the music I listen to outside of anime and game soundtracks is, well…repetitive, to say the least. Most of it is Trap flavored Hip-Hop which I mostly use as a way to pass the time to and from work or on errands, when I am not listening to podcasts anyway. I say this as a way of prefacing that I do not tend to consume a lot of experimental stuff. Still, the album showed up in my recommended on Spotify, and, well, here we are.
I was always vaguely familiar with the sort of YouTube Rap-scene that developed in the mid-2010s because of how much time I spent on the site, especially in high school. However, the scene never stood out as being a group of “serious music makers,” even to dumb 15-16 year old me. Quedeca, in particular though, while certainly being above average in terms of his flows, rhyme-schemes and delivery, never felt like he was doing anything special. As Anthony Fantano put it, Quedeca has always felt like more of a chameleon.
I tried revisiting some of his 2019 project “Voice Memos” just to see if there was anything there I had potentially missed, and while there are definitely shades of introspection in some of the bars on that, it pales in comparison to his latest project “From Me to You.” The album is 18 songs and clocks in at just under an hour of total run time, and while that is certainly longer than the average Rap project, it is absolutely worth every second.
There is…so much going on here. Quedeca’s reputation proceeded him a lot while listening to this album. For the first few tracks of the album I was confused and though maybe I had put on something else, but no. This is very much his project, and I say that pretty literally, as it appears most of the album was written, produced, and recorded by himself.
The production on “From Me to You” is probably the most surprising element of the album, especially considering what his production has sounded like in the past. Experimental is probably the most accurate way to describe it, but even that does not necessarily speak to the precision in which the sonic elements of the project are employed. It truly stands out as being unique to this album, and not something I could find by going to a Kid Cudi and especially not a Lil Uzi Vert.
Part of that is the noise and distortion that is present throughout many parts of the track list. The most obvious example of this comes from the opening song “Sisyphus,” which also serves as the thesis statement of the album, both in the production and writing. A lot of it is used to emphasize the heavier moments and to transition between different sections of particular tracks, such as “Burnin Bridges/Long Day” featuring IDK and “It’s All a Game.”
There is also just a ton of variety when it comes to the musical instruments used. “Sisyphus” not only has well made vocal harmonies backing up the song, but has piano, acoustic and electric guitar, ukulele, and drums all within a five minute time span. The violins on the intro to “Smiling at the Ground” were another element that really heightened the effectiveness of the track, and added to the overall atmosphere of the album.
Good production can only carry an album so far, however, and as surprising as the production of the album is, the writing is where the album really shines. Much of the album is littered with imagery of mountains and the idea of climbing them. “Sisyphus,” which I mentioned before, makes this most apparent, as the title is a reference to a Greek god who, after cheating death multiple times, is condemned by Zeus to push a boulder up a mountain for eternity. The invocation here is meant to represent the loneliness and mental health problems Quedeca is dealing with. One line in particular that stands out with the track is “Even our bickerin’ getting nostalgic, all of those little things meld into mountains in my mind, uh,” which expands on the metaphor he has created by implying that his past struggles are something that he has to climb past.
This can be seen as well with some of the interludes that appear at various points in the album. “Verglas,” whose title refers to a frost typically found on mountains, has a similarly cold, yet inviting atmosphere which leads into “Maybe Another Day.” “Hallstatt” references a small Austrian town located in a mountainous region, which proceeds the track “Work!” with PlayThatBoiZay.
A straightforward reading of this album would be Quedeca reflecting on a past romantic relationship in which he acknowledges the struggles his partner had to go through, the mountains they had to climb, so to speak, but ultimately still wishing they could be together. While that is definitely a significant portion of the album, songs like “Smiling at the Ground,” “People Pleaser,” and “Summit, Pt.1” seem to confront another aspect of his struggle, which is dealing with expectations created by the parasocial relationships which exist for someone who makes YouTube videos and music.
There also appears to be a pretty explicit critique of this “grind” mentality which has come to dominate a lot of places on the internet. “Work!” and “People Pleaser” do this fairly effectively by illustrating that this mentality, while maybe netting some monetary success, is ultimately harmful by linking productivity with self-worth. These ideas come to a head on “Summit Pt.1,” where Quadeca reiterates the idea that he, along with everyone, is destined to climb up the same mountains, carrying the same boulders with us, only to fall back down. There is also a version of the glass half-empty, glass half-full idea present in the refrain, where he says “And I’ve been lookin’ at the summit
They say we’re halfway there, I think we’re halfway from it.”
Now, I do not want to make anyone think that Quadeca is somehow unique in his experimental sound. I know enough about modern music to know there are plenty of other artists who are similarly experimental in there Rap. Brockhampton immediately come to mind, and even some of the featured artists like IDK have been exploring new sounds long before this album came out. Even within the sub-genre of Emo-Rap, there have been a lot of interesting developments, with artists like the late Juice WRLD being at the forefront.
Also, the album is definitely not perfect. As pretty as they do sound, almost all of the interludes on the project overstay there welcome just a bit too long. Also, while there are some lyrical and sonic connections to the rest of the album, the track “Where’d You Go?” feels almost entirely unnecessary, and in a way kind of lowers the emotional impact that “Summit Pt. 1” has while listening through the album.
For those who did not give this album a second thought because of the name attached to it, I totally understand. However, even for those who are not particularly big fans of Rap and Hip-Hop, there is enough going on in the production and writing of “From Me to You” that it is worth at least a try.
Well, this is definitely my longest post in a while. Not really sure why, but I just felt a lot of love for this project after hearing it, so I wanted to write about it. Have you all listened to “From Me to You?” If you have, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
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