At the end of 2014, Chicago’s drill scene endures, but once again primarily as a regional phenomenon. The major labels who rushed in to scoop up its biggest names two years ago have all but moved on—Interscope severed its ties with Chief Keef in October, and rumors have surfaced that Def Jam has done the same with Lil Durk, although at this time he’s still listed on their roster of artists. Two years after its release, Keef’s lightning-in-a-bottle Finally Rich remains the only full-length drill project to have been officially released through a major.
Whether this is the fault of the labels or the artists themselves is beyond the point. But as is often the case, a lot of the most interesting work from a scene emerges once the spotlight has shifted elsewhere and its artists are free to pursue their own interests rather than having to bend to the will of their corporate benefactors. Case in point: SD (born Sadiki Thirston) opted for the independent route from the beginning, releasing three mixtapes over the last two years and establishing himself as a reliable if unsung practitioner of the sound, content to color within its lines instead of pushing them further outward. His debut album, Truly Blessed, doesn’t reinvent drill, but it manages to highlight that it’s always existed in close proximity to pop, even if it’s the kind that never misses an opportunity to elbow you in the gut.
There are zero guests on Truly Blessed, but SD doesn’t try very hard to hide the influences of his contemporaries that can be heard throughout the album. He doesn’t need to—his greatest strength lies in his gifts as a synthesist, studying the music of those around him and hand-picking only what he needs most. Opener “Confident” finds the 20-year-old sounding, especially with the lurching melody he rolls around during his verses, like a less marble-mouthed Chief Keef. In many ways, the album sounds like the kind of music that Keef might be making if he was interested in recording a proper follow-up to Finally Rich rather than burrowing deeper into his own insular world.
In other words: anthems abound here. Whether it’s the Zaytoven-esque funhouse mirror trap of “Styles”, on which SD stretches out vowels about as far as vowels can be stretched, or the gargantuan bruiser “Circles”, where his singsong melodies fold in on themselves, eating their own tails in a game of musical Ouroboros, SD knows how to key in on one particular element in a song and then spend four minutes exploring it from every possible angle. Take “Clockwork”, for instance, where he borrows inspiration from the tick-tock heave of Sonny Digital and B Wheezy’s production without running the track’s central conceit (“What time is it? Go get some money”) into the ground.
Even with his penchant for selecting tough-as-nails production, Truly Blessed is rarely a heavy affair. The narrative around drill often claims that those who make it are dead-eyed goons, nihilists who not only perpetuate the violence that plagues their city but actually glorify it. This conveniently avoids admitting that, while a lot of drill is unrelentingly bleak (see: most of Lil Durk’s oeuvre), there’s a lot of humor and outright joy to be found in it as well—SD isn’t the natural class clown that King Louie is, but he may be drill’s most natural lothario. The most infectious moments on Truly Blessed are its giddiest, and a few of them also happen to be honest-to-God—and really good—love songs.
“I want the best of you, don’t worry ’bout tonight” SD sing-raps on “Big Things”, which captures the dizzying swirl of being completely and entirely head-over-heels about someone. It’s also a shimmering swath of Lite-Brite synths that still possesses a lower-end that could knock pictures off of walls. “I Do” might be even better—SD sells the song by committing fully to its starry-eyed ecstasy, and it may very well contain the most sunlight a drill song has ever dared to let in. “This money saved me” claims SD at one point on Truly Blessed, but the 15 songs here make a compelling argument that changing “money” to “music” wouldn’t make his statement one iota less accurate.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1yo6uKN