By Abby Jeffers, Contributor
[AU Music; 2018]
Key Tracks: “Escape”, “Intro”
Returning after months of radio silence, Columbus rapper Dominique Larue’s I’m Smiling Because I Hate Everything, her fourth studio album, functions as a sort of therapy. The album centers around themes of mental illness and Larue’s recovery after a suicide attempt and hospital stay following the death of fellow rapper and friend Nes Wordz, according to Columbus Alive.
Read more: Album Review: Noname – Room 25
The album opens with “Intro”, a fast-paced track in which Larue boldly proclaims, “I smile because I hate you / I smile because I hate me / I smile because I’m pissed off, and I’m fucked up, and I’m angry.” It sets the tone for the record both in cadence and content; Larue’s confident and smooth delivery fits well with the coolly-complex beats created by her cousin Tha Audio Unit, who also produced the album.
Larue does not lack enthusiasm in dealing with these emotionally-draining topics, though, as evidenced by these eight tracks and her recent performance at The Union, where not a single member of the audience remained stationary as they danced and sang along. On the album, Larue sandwiches dark lyrics between high-energy beats on tracks like “Strippers @ My Funeral”, the album’s fifth track, which has a swaying beat and rhythmic lyrics that punctuate the gritty background synth as Larue raps, “I just need to take some time out / Decompress.”
The standout on the album is “Escape”; the heavy beat sounds the way anxiety feels: frantic and freaked-out. The droning synth in the background builds anticipation throughout the song alongside the seemingly-increasing tempo. Yet, Larue does not falter as she snaps, “My reality / I can’t face it / Who am I? / My name ain’t shit.”
A few other tracks stick out on the album not for notable lyricism, but for straying from the themes of anxiety and depression. “Lap”, for example, comes across as aggressively-sexual when Larue raps, “Bend me over and stretch me / Be my freak, I might let you,” breaking the previous pattern of lines about antidepressants and suicidal ideation.
“Goodbye”, the album’s closing track, emphasizes a shift in Larue’s attitude via its sauntering beat, as she meanders through the song rather than spitting “And if I stick around just know that I lose,” the way she did at the beginning of this journey during the second song, “Hello”. The two contrast in that “Goodbye” is not about pushing people away but rather embraces a lover. Thus, Larue seems to have matured in coping with her mental illness throughout the course of the album. Instead of rapping about the “suicidal note in [her] inbox” the way she did during “Escape”, Larue now declares, “I just wanna get away / To happiness and better days / So tell me what you wanna do / If you wanna move, I’ll set a date.”