There’s a big chance that one look at $uicideboy$ makes you roll your eyes. In press photos, they’re usually covering their face with middle fingers, but you can always see $krim’s bleached blonde dreads flowing from his white, tattooed face. The other guy, Ruby da Cherry, looks like the custodian at your local high school who chilled a bit too hard with the kids but pulled it off because he had the weed plug. Their music videos usually see them smoking blunts or falling off skateboards or performing to insanely lit warehouses, imagery that is all doused in a pinch of horrorcore. The aesthetic is acute. It works.
They’re definitely too edgy for their own good, but that’s the whole appeal. In fact, I do not doubt their authenticity for a second. When they showed up on Adam22’s No Jumper podcast in 2015, $krim explained just how high the stakes were: “if $uicideboy$ didn’t happen, I’d blow my fucking head off.” You don’t look like this, make 43 projects in four years, and write all of your songs about the grimmest, ugliest forms of depression without meaning every word. No wonder it resonates with millions.
It doesn’t take long on their official debut album before $uicideboy$ are rapping “It feels like I’m cursed / Hopefully soon I’ll return to the dirt”, and you know exactly what you’re getting into. It’s easy to try and laugh it off until you remember that Lil Peep was singing shit like “Imma die young / Imma get killed” for years, and people treated him like an emo poster boy self-parody until he actually did die. Comparisons to Peep, another white, tattooed young man who made music that was unapologetically sad, are inevitable, but where Peep adopted the sing-song cadences of Good Charlotte, $uicideboy$ sample Three 6 Mafia and don’t touch Auto-Tune. People will rightfully cite their genre-fluidity as a strength, but at their core, $uicideboy$ are a rap group. Even if their aesthetic is headline-grabbing, genuine, and fully-formed, they rap on all their songs, so rapping is what they need to be judged for. Unfortunately, every time they rap on I Want to Die in New Orleans, the album falls apart a little bit more. Every time they sing, it goes to complete shit. $uicideboy$ have the charisma to spearhead a movement, but their voices are their own worst enemies.
It’s not like they are doomed from inception. Ruby has a penchant for putting together momentous flows, even though his voice has the tuneless quality of someone awkwardly singing along to a song they are listening to through headphones with no concept of how they actually sound. $krim is unquestionably the stronger of the two, with a low, guttural croak that commands every track. The best songs on here see them going back and forth, bouncing off each other, and emphasizing $krim’s performances. Ruby is hit-or-miss throughout the project; at his best, he is the melodic vehicle of darkness at the center of these tracks, but when he uses his voice in the wrong ways, this album can be borderline unlistenable. “122 Days” sees him attempting to harmonize over a chorus that desperately grasps for the anthemic, but the mixing is so flat, and his voice is so off-pitch that it’s almost cringe-worthy. $krim eventually comes in and reclaims the song, but at this point, even he sounds tired, and this is only five songs in.
The lyrics are exactly what we’ve come to expect; a depraved, unflinching gaze at self-loathing, decay, and suicidal tendencies. They sound numb to it at this point, so it makes sense that the listening experience is as grey and lifeless as the themes. However, that doesn’t make it particularly fun to listen to. The aesthetic shock value doesn’t bleed onto the music at all, and most of this album is a drag, zeroing in on the least interesting sonic tendencies of cloud-rap and horrorcore.
If the music was as over-the-top and innovative as it acts like it is, it could get away with its messy and ugly moments, but when this album tests the listener, it isn’t because it pushes sonic boundaries and gets too real. It’s because its repetitive, cliché-ridden lyrics and terrible vocal performances are genuinely hard to listen to, let alone find value in. You can cram a song with violent imagery and the most harrowing cries for help, but it won’t transcend into something meaningful unless it is backed up by personality and sounds half decent. No matter how much I trust that $uicideboy$ have good reason to be rapping about “meeting the reaper” and how they “bite the head off a bat like Ozzy”, I Want to Die in New Orleans sounds like them checking off a list of empty horrorcore clichés and suffocating in the process.
When $uicideboy$ play to their strengths and talk their typical talk, like on “Phantom Menace” or “Carrolton”, the bangers are functional if the beat is good. At the very best, this album is still insipid and dry, but it proceeds with purpose and can hold its own. However, it falls off a cliff on songs where they attempt to do anything more. There are moments on “Long Gone” and “Meet Mr. NICEGUY” where layers of awful singing pile on top of each other and, dear god, there is really no place for it. Maybe it would work if it was passionate or dynamic, but neither $krim nor Ruby should ever try to sing, let alone without autotune. The passages where they do are so fucking painful. They sound like they are being forced to sing. They sound like they have never heard good singing before. I’m sorry, no amount of production could save how bad they sound, but there is not even any production trying to. It’s all there for you to hear, and it’s horrendous.
There would be redemption in this if it didn’t happen so often, or if the highs were higher, or if the album was cohesive. However, no number of unexplained news clips about New Orleans can stamp this album with geographic significance, and none of the dark Soundcloud bangers can justify this album’s existence. $uicideboy$ misses sting a lot more than their hits, and what they lack in substance and talent is so apparent that they probably should have never tried to make a full album. If they haven’t already won you over, there’s no reason this will. But they probably don’t care and why should they? As Ruby puts it, “‘I don’t give a fuck’ is my fucking epithet.” They’re doing something right, and that’s all that matters. It’s just definitely not singing. Or making albums.