Listeners of Black Panther: The Album may recall “Paramedic!” as one of the record’s highlights. It starred a vibrant and enthusiastic rap group out of Vallejo, Calif., who made a noticeable buzz for all the right reasons.
The four-person collective dubbed SOB X RBE dropped their breakout LP GANGIN, and it shows that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Problems with staying on beat, mundane raps and a lack of innovation all keep this album from being a stronger debut.
The project is composed of 15 tracks which clock in at 43 minutes, and the group’s strengths come in crashing waves of high energy and unexpected instrumentals. They also avoid overstaying their welcome through long-winded tracks and cramming each rapper into every song, two things Migos were guilty of doing on this year’s Culture II.
As a group, SOB X RBE — which stands for “Strictly Only Brothers, Real Boi Entertainment” — was founded in 2016 and is made up of Yhung T.O, Da Boii, Slimmy B and Lul G. The quartet started as most organic musical groups do: by using whatever lo-fi recording equipment was at their disposal and dedicating themselves to their craft.
After recording vocals with a phone and somehow using a PlayStation to layer them over instrumentals, the group dropped a couple of tracks online. These songs eventually caught the eye of fellow Bay Area rapper Sage the Gemini, who would go on to mentor the group and take them on tour.
Although Pitchfork added the album to their “Best New Music” list, these rappers are still inexperienced, as some of the record’s more glaring issues are hard to ignore. None of SOB’s members offer much in the way of lyrics and the overall quality of the product comes off as very messy. When you hear the album’s first third, you really don’t have to listen to the rest of it unless you’re looking for more of the same.
But their smooth, throwback beats have an interesting clash with their crossover style of pop-trap flows and cutthroat, gritty raps. Overall, it elevates the group’s chemistry with each other. The opening track “Carpoolin’” is both my favorite track on the LP and the strongest example of their strengths.
Another highlight of the album comes in the very West Coast-sounding “Paid in Full,” which presents a shred of similarity between SOB and N.W.A. songs like “God” also offer a more vulnerable and much-needed break from the bulk of the album’s repetitive tracks, and I hope to see more of their projects explore this path in the future.
SOB X RBE doesn’t have many tools at their disposal, but a lot of the elements for a potentially great follow-up album are within grasp. To get there, more creative lyrics, on-point delivery and general maturing are necessary.
For some fun background music you can use at parties, I recommend checking out GANGIN. For those in search of a rap album that truly deserves the title of “Best New Music,” listen to JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran.
Final Grade: D