After an album of oversized debauchery called Who’s Gonna Get F**ked First?, Father returns with…. more debauchery. But he’s feeling more conflicted about it. The title “I’m a Piece of Shit” is your first clue. That sentiment juxtaposed with a cover drawing of a happy, flower-child Father is meant to be funny—everything Father does is, to some extent, meant to be funny. But it’s also a pained realization, a stark confession.
This is more than a purposeful stepping-up to claim the mantle of conflicted lothario that’s been a hip-hop mainstay for years. It’s more complicated than that; still an extension of the wiseass-surrealist-sensualist-nerd persona Father projected on his previous two albums and within the myriad of other appearances he’s made with his Atlanta-based Awful Records crew and affiliated others.
He’s also a secret Goth, a gloom-and-doom sci-fi kid with the apocalypse on his brain, and a poet of the imaginative possibilities of hedonism. The last words of the album: “I want to die a little / cry a little / get a little high right now.” It’s a mantra that’s also his version of a big crashing pop hook—that is, a mumbled, stumbled-through, slightly demented hook. And the song, “Y U Make It Hurt Like This”, is also sort of a love song, and a what-does-life-amount to tragic ending.
The album has many dark anthems like this. Once you’ve grown accustomed to Father’s aesthetic, several of them feel like massive, crashing-through hits. Genuine pop jams that are also drugged-up, eroticized, emotionally confused and misleading instant cult classics. There’s the opener “Why Don’t U”, featuring one semi-star that ascended from the Awful fold (ILoveMakonnen) and one will-be-a-star (Abra). The two guests begin the song, Abra breathlessly personifying both a collective voice, of women following our would-be hip-hop superstars demanding love or sex or something (a repeated “why don’t you love me, Daddy?”, sung like a sexy robot) and also serving as the voice of a particular woman, as messed-up on pills as the men, questioning reality and looking for answers (“is this love, Daddy?”). Makonnen is in brilliant unhinged form, playing the role of the spurned, confused one. Father, as is typical, adds both warped humor and a note of deep regret. Actually this time it’s more the latter – pills have him blacking out, blackouts him doing things he doesn’t remember doing, which makes him wonder what is real and what he’s really feeling.
A few of the album’s hardest jams live within the mentality of those blackout nights, but from the voice inside his head that says to follow base impulses and ignore the other voice saying it’s a bad idea. “Fuck Up the Sheraton” is one, with Father and Archibald Slim (Awful’s best rapper, when it comes to more standard gauges of rapping proficiency) out on the prowl. “Peel money / touch bitches” is the mantra here. (Father’s music is filled with mantras, by the way, that sum up the central feeling behind a song while the music either supports it or questions it, depending on the sentiment.)
The chest-beating, (self-)hate-filled joyride “Big Emblem Benz” is like a demonic mirror image of a classic speaker-rattling car jam. “Party On Me” puts Father and I Love Makonnen back together, along with Ethereal, for some wallowing in the misery of screwing women over and then getting a taste of your own medicine and not liking it. A perfect coming together of awkward hook-singing, turned-on but disgusted rapping and ghostly atmosphere.
That song makes clear the mix of melancholy, self-disgust and confusion that lies behind the whole album. Whether he’s having sexual fantasies, feeling paranoid in the middle of a partying life or questioning the
Father’s delivery and the music behind him says all of this even more clearly and convincingly than the lyrics themselves. Where the lyrics capture it all – the boasting and partying and its conflicted flipside – the music and his voice carry the pain and dismay much more overtly. There’s a slow-motion vibe to the entire album. It exists in a haze. Little pieces of the music stick in your brain days after listening, like the ghostly memories of those blackout nights. Father himself sounds half-asleep and fully alert to everything life has to offer, especially when it comes to bodies and experiences.
“I’m a piece of shit” is what you say when you’ve caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize how gone you are. It’s what you say when you have a moment of clarity after a wasted year, when someone says something to you that cuts through everything and hits you in the heart, to wake you up to what a jerk you’ve been.
I’m a Piece of Shit the album captures that moment and what came before it. It emulates the wasted nights while seeing them through the morning after.
// Notes from the Road
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