Shiesty Season is low-key, minimally-produced rap record that thrives on Pooh’s undeniable charisma and swag.
T’was first decreed by the ever-ostentatious Young Thug to be the season of slime; then Gunna, his most felicitous protégée, declared it the juncture of drip. Now, there’s a new taxonomy to mark this period of human activity, coined by another promising student with a big-name teacher: it’s now Shiesty Season, proclaimed by one Pooh Shiesty. Signed to Gucci Mane’s re-imagined 1017 Records and recently certifying his ascendency with a viral 6ix9ine shoutout, the Memphis native’s debut mixtape is as auspicious as its figurative title suggests: the project is a genuinely engaging, bona fide star-making move for the rapper — with a heavy emphasis on himself as the prime selling point here. In many respects, this is your standard trap album of the week, a release that Kodak Black or Youngboy could have conjured up with minimal resources. The beats are sparse and ominous, barely hanging in the background, and consist of a few basic piano melodies and some crass high-hats. There’s a mellotron used on “Drop Some Shit” and a guitar lick found on “Seeing Red,” which gives you an idea of how scant things are production-wise. The features are divided into two groups: the phoned-in-favor variety — 21 Savage on “Box of Churches” and the aforementioned Gucci on “Ugly” — and the “here’s my buddy” type — whoever the fuck Big30 is, who appears twice. But where a lesser talent would take these routine elements and misappropriate them, Shiesty uses them to his advantage and ultimately builds off of them. Your beats are simple? Well, then you simplify every facet of the songwriting and give yourself room to maneuver. Do your guests suck? Easy, just sideline them as much as possible and trust in yourself.
Besides, Shiesty is a charismatic enough figure — one who can really sell his aloof, almost reticent attitude towards casual sex and posting death threats — that he often does best when left to only the minimal. “Back in Blood,” the closest thing Pooh has to a purpose of statement thus far in his career, works on the most fundamental of levels: it has a bulletproof hook, a clear command of vocal control, a slick flow, some cool ad-libs, a lotta “brrrs” that Pooh may or may not be able to control, and features a pretty funny play on Shiesty’s namesake courtesy of Lil Durk: “Pooh Shiesty, that’s my dawg, but Pooh, you know I’m really shiesty.” On “Making A Mess,” Shiesty and his two guests sound downright victorious over a triumphant horn sample, as each proceeds to produce the most degenerate flexes imaginable (“Glock got a switch, that bitch bisexual”), only to walk back with woke-r claims by the tail-end of the project (“Yeah, I know Muslim killers, shout out to them ahks”). But the crowning achievement of this sorta offhand bravado is the lilting “Neighbors,” with Shiesty’s presence felt in full effect as he elongates his deadpan inflections, slightly slurs his consonants, and brags about getting “free shit out the store because I’m fucking the clerk.” So sure, while Pooh’s certainly not re-inventing the wheel with his music, he pays enough attention to the core fundamentals of what’s required of him that it’s easy to forget such things. As it currently stands, the season of being shiesty is already off to a promising start.
Published as part of Album Roundup — February 2021 | Part 3.