Credit: Heaven by Marc Jacobs
by M.G. Mailloux Music

Best Albums of 2021: Bladee | The Fool

January 8, 2022

#10. Though prolific and trendy, Bladee remains a figure seemingly detached, his career thus far skirting up against, and indebted to, the western pop music machine, but resistant to its expectations. Alongside collaborators Ecco2K, Thaiboy Digital, and Whitearmor, Bladee has released a slew of tapes, EPs, and albums under the Drain Gang collective banner over the last seven years, yet the culture they’ve fostered has remained as insular as it is devout. Sort of an offshoot of Yung Lean’s Sad Boys and the version of cloud rap music they popularized, the interview-shy crew of (primarily) Swedish producers and autotune-heavy rappers surely prefer it this way, unique enough to inspire a fervent fan base, while just esoteric enough to confound corporate media. 

Bladee’s fifth solo album since 2016, The Fool marks a glorious refinement of this balance, pulling the numerous aesthetic threads running through his discography together. His records being known for their individual stylistic consistency already (encouraged by a reliance on one producer per project), The Fool proves Bladee’s most streamlined offering to date, presenting his most recognized sonic predilections fully realized. But the appeal of The Fool is its seeming indifference to such metrics, the album casting Bladee as the title tarot figure, a seeker and learner open to reinvention and discovery. Fitting for the often wide-eyed, new-agey MC and his psychedelic worldview (most apparent here in the existential ruminations of “I Think…”), particularly as it intersects with his mischievous performance of hip hop boastfulness (“Its kinda funny cause you’re so mad and IDGAF”). One can imagine the many ways in which this synthesis could come off as distasteful, and certainly such criticisms have been made and still circulate, but Bladee’s guileless bars and kind sentiment have a way of disarming. Here they’re  freestyled over classic post-Lean type production from RipSquad’s Lusi (trap drum versus goofy warbly synth), a newer addition to the ever expanding Drain Gang universe totally in sync with their vibe. Ever evolving and reinventing, The Fool is a natural archetypal figure for Bladee to identify with, his career up till now an unpredictable adventure defined as he went along. Amusingly, The Fool proves his most assured work yet, far out ahead of any number of 2021 albums by more wizened artists in fact, but the title’s humble implications stoke excitement in the suggestion that we only have more Drain ingenuity to anticipate.