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RMR - Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art EP Music Album Reviews

Months after his country-rap video went viral, the purposefully mysterious artist releases an EP with all the personality of a wiped smartphone.

In the months since his Rascal Flatts homage “Rascal” went viral via a cheeky video pairing sweet singing and leering guns, RMR has cultivated a hazy mythology. He grew up “between” Buckhead, Atlanta and Inglewood, Los Angeles, cities a continent apart. He’s influenced by Kanye, Keith Urban, and Gary LeVox, but he’s not a country musician or rapper; he’s a “new-age artist.” In videos and in meetings with record execs, he wears a ski mask, insisting on anonymity because he wants “people to listen with their ears, not their eyes.” On his debut EP *Drug Dealing I
s a Lost Art*, all this intrigue falls flat. There’s nothing fun, intriguing, or provocative about his music. Despite all his fusionist posturing, he’s got the personality of a wiped smartphone: sleek, modern, empty.

Though RMR favors pageantry on camera, on record he’s modest. As seen in the “Rascal” video, which opens with him belting out a melody, he prizes his voice. It’s a resonant, powerful instrument, and the clip hinges on its bluesy allure to sell the emo-trap shtick that follows. The EP is just as dependent on his voice, but without the video’s props, RMR is exposed. His music is weirdly both overwrought and inert. He croons with the force and intensity of a Rod Wave or 070 Shake but fails to make that strain compelling. The flexes on “Nouveau Riche” are hollow despite being delivered at full blast. “Now I got the life I wanted/Hoping I don’t fuck it up,” he sings, sans context. He could be talking about signing a record deal or replacing his PC with a Mac. There’s no way to know and little reason to care.

He often speaks of escape and arrival without elaborating or embellishing his journey. From his perfunctory mentions of poverty and struggle on “Welfare” to the motivational-speaker talk of “Rascal” (“I came up and so could you”), RMR’s tales are so generic and grayscale that Westside Gunn lands the most colorful line on the album with a lazy throwaway: “My shooter got a big beard/He from Philly.” RMR’s elusiveness is clearly supposed to cultivate some sense of mystery, but there are no breadcrumbs to follow, no puzzle pieces to assemble. He describes the world and himself so impersonally it feels like he was literally born yesterday.

He supplements his poor writing with his bland melodies, convinced that the act of singing is inherently charismatic. “Codeine got me in my feelings/ Codeine got me in my feelings,” he repeats on “Dealer,” yelping the second line. He’s attempting to evoke the mania and delirium of a bender, but the actual result is more “heard ‘Codeine Crazy’ once.” That’s his bit, essentially: I’ve heard it all. This might be compelling if there were a sense of audacity to his mash-ups, but he’s got the stage presence of a floorboard.

Compared to Rina Sawayama treating nu-metal like a sacred art, Pink Siifu channeling hardcore into black rage, or Breland hamming up “My Truck” with that delightful, over-the-top drawl, RMR has no imagination. His take on hybridity is so staid and lifeless that he can’t even sell “Fuck twelve” on “Rascal;” in his mouth it feels less like a battlecry and more like a Spencer’s Gifts executive spitballing t-shirt ideas.

It’s that abiding feeling of vacancy that makes Drug Dealing Is a Lost Art feel so thoroughly feckless and inept. On “I’m Not Over You,” a track co-produced by Timbaland and Andre Brissett, RMR revisits the country- rap template that made him viral. Given Timbaland’s role in legitimizing and innovating country rap in the form of Bubba Sparxxx, the collaboration had the potential to give depth to RMR’s professed genre agnosticism, to show there was a vision underlying all the mythmaking. Instead, we get an uninspired ballad about some brokenhearted schmuck over a flavorless mix of banjo and bass kicks. Sometimes a mask is just a blank face.

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