By Nolan Simmons, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Godbody – Pt. 2”, “Paint Thinner”, “Bag Talk”
With the 2016 release of iiiDrops, Chicago-based rapper Joey Purp proved that he is no stranger to trying new things. Showcasing his ability to easily flow over left-of-center production with unique tracks like “Photobooth” and “Kids”, iiiDrops allowed him to carve out his position within the Chicago rap climate. With his latest release, his versatility is even more evident.
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QUARTERTHING, the Savemoney crew member’s third solo album, is a tour de force that spans across a multitude of aesthetics, both sonically and thematically. Purp manages to deliver bars across several different musical realms, ranging from crowded, brassy instrumentals, to energetic strip-club anthems, ultimately finishing with grimy heavy-hitters that would feel right at home in the latest Vince Staples record. But where iiiDrops features a Purp who documents the bleak realities of the life he escaped from, QUARTERTHING is simultaneously a victory lap and a warning from a young artist just a few wrong moves away from returning to the corner.
QUARTERTHING opens strong with “24k Gold/Sanctified”, a track that immediately sets the tone for the first leg of the album. Purp comes out swinging, preaching about peace and love over top of a soaring orchestral production, courtesy of frequent Chance the Rapper collaborators Nate Fox and Nico Segal (AKA Donnie Trumpet). He reminisces about his troubled past and how he is prepared to give his children a brighter future than he had growing up on Chicago’s West Side: “I was hustling for my daughter / Only thing that’s on my mind / Get a dollar out her college fund / You out your fuckin’ mind.”
A few tracks later, Purp shares a similar sentiment on “Paint Thinner”, a bombastic track stuffed full of tapping hi-hats and intermittent bells that sound like a more straight-edge Migos throwaway — a fact he nods to with a brief triplet flow made popular by the trio. This track is the best example of the duality of the album, with cautious lines like “Pray the lord put a blessin’ on me / Pray my son not a fake n—/ Pray his daddy not a dope dealer / Read the signs, know the ropes n—”, which come just before he flexes about the cost of his jewelry.
Purp isn’t serious all the time, though. He has fun with “Elastic”, a bouncy, spiritual successor to the iiiDrops single “Girls @” and the album’s first detour from its passionate opening. He keeps the same determined energy on this nightclub banger as he does on slower, more personal tracks — a mainstay throughout the album that will leave listeners happily breathless by the end.
Despite hitting fantastic highs, QUARTERTHING is still subject to the plight of the jack of all trades. “Aw Sh*t!” attempts to keep the energy of “Elastic” over a Chicago juke type beat but overstays its welcome at 2 minutes and 36 seconds, a long time for a song so repetitive. “Karl Malone” sounds too much like Machine Gun Kelly’s “Till I Die” to be taken seriously, appearing as the musical equivalent to the “You can copy my homework, but change a few things so it’s not obvious” meme. “Fessional/Diamonds Dancing” has an incredible neo-G-Funk feel, but Purp’s inflection is distracting enough to warrant a skip if it comes on shuffle. The album also comes to a very confusing end with a misplaced GZA spoken-word piece that would have made more sense as an intro into “24k Gold/Sanctified”.
Nevertheless, Joey Purp took many risks crafting QUARTERTHING, most of which pay off extremely well. Whether over soul samples, bounce music or bass you can feel in your bones, he can be found tenaciously rapping all over this diverse project — changing his flow, but never his energy. Purp is lightning in a bottle, and QUARTERTHING is an incredible benchmark to add to his resume.