Popstar Benny - University! Music Album Reviews

Popstar Benny - University! Music Album Reviews
Full of plinking synths, blown-out bass, and skittering beats, the Atlanta producer’s latest compilation sounds like the flyest rap video game never made.

Popstar Benny once said his music is “the soundtrack to a video game that doesn’t exist.” On the surface, that description only applies to the chirpy plugg beats and sound effects the Atlanta-based producer is most known for. But he’s remixed this deep-fried sensibility with several other subgenres: R&B, rage, drum’n’bass, underground boom-bap. His songs can be as saccharine as a wet wad of cotton candy, but sometimes, they can feel as prickly as a Brillo pad—a fitting spectrum for the collages of plinks, samples, and blown-out 808s coming from Benny’s mind. It’s easy to imagine every song as its own level in a game, digital worlds tethered together like a cable connecting a Game Boy Advance to a GameCube. University!, Benny’s latest album, isn’t his first time making a producer project, but by his cacophonous standards, it ranks among his darkest and most adventurous. These are beats for a mini-boss to thrash to.

From the project’s opening moments, it’s clear that Benny’s operating with a murkier, more spacious palette than before. His instrumentals are still jumpy, but there’s less going on all at once, with plenty of room for his rhythms and array of producer tags to stretch out. The melodies on “Snow Boots On” and “Kno Where 2 Start” are muted, like they’re being played in distant rooms. Synths and chimes on “Wildboy” and “Call Me!” flex the crisp atmospheric zen of Clams Casino-era cloud rap as much as they do MexikoDro-indebted plugg. His half-dozen producer tags still crowd the margins like a Trapaholics bootleg download from LimeWire, but overall, he inverts his process by scaling his walls of sound back slightly. The pieces he does focus on put a minimal spin on his maximalist style.

Just because University! is more stripped-back doesn’t mean it’s lacking for ideas. If anything, this newfound space has Benny feeling more experimental than usual. He has cited Pharrell Williams as an influence, and he shares the Virginia legend’s affinity for effortlessly recontextualizing every sound and style in his image. Peep the way he stitches the smooth guitars and melodies of two Gorillaz samples between warbling drums and verses from New York and Atlanta rappers Moh Baretta and Tony Shhnow on “feelbadcorps” and “Pack After Pack,” respectively. Or consider how his musical wanderlust pushes him to explore more sounds on the edges of rap. The most radical is “All the Girls <3,” a peppy, plugg-ified take on Jersey club fitting for a round of Dance Dance Revolution. Other tracks tinker with convention. “Glick” turns the bass on its drums down so Memphis rapper GUN40’s blaring verse floats above everything, while the keyboards and kick drum on “King of the Hill” are soothing and relaxed—two words rarely used to describe Benny’s music.

Half the fun of a producer compilation is seeing if the rappers and singers slot themselves into the beats well, and University! mostly delivers. The majority of its vocal cast is already a part of Benny’s world, and they’re eager to cut their way through his creations: 3AG Pilot’s mid-range voice fits seamlessly over the chipmunked choir in the background of “Sore Loser;” elsewhere, 4pooch’s flow matches the skittering crawl of “Wildboy.” The only two artists to show up multiple times are longtime collaborators Shhnow and Bear1Boss, and they consistently prove why Benny keeps them close. But he also gets mileage out of newer talent, like $pook on the astral “Club Spook” and Los Angeles’ Loso Hendrixx on the chiptune-adjacent “Cold Blood.” All of these vocalists have different ranges, flows, and perspectives, and outside of the bland “Duck Unlimited,” Benny corrals them into a diverse roster worthy of a well-balanced fighting game.

Coaxing rappers and singers onto beats as spacey and animated as these requires mutual trust. The MCs have to confide in the producers to come with music that’s interesting and open enough for them to do their thing, and the producers have to count on the rappers to handle whatever they can throw at them. This is a balance that Benny has maintained across a plethora of one-off collaborative tapes and beat placements for some years now, all stemming from a unique understanding of how every form of rap music ultimately feeds back into the whole. More than any of his other projects, University! feels like a home base in an adventure game—a welcoming hub that also prepares you to jet off into the unknown.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Popstar Benny - University! Music Album Reviews Popstar Benny - University! Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 14, 2023 Rating: 5


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