Fivio can be seen at the top of his game in ‘BIBLE’
Few local rap movements have become as culturally influential and pervasive as Brooklyn Drill in recent years. Born out of the rise of Brooklyn rappers adopting the slippery, nihilistic production style of British exercise, the American iteration of the style also often features lyrics about partying or gang affiliation. Brooklyn’s appeal to British sound makes sense; The unique drum structures of British Drill are noticeably influenced by traditional Caribbean rhythms such as soca music, as many of the inner city Londoners from whom British Drill originates are of Caribbean descent. As such, Brooklyn neighborhoods that offer thriving digging scenes are also home to large Caribbean populations. Brooklyn drill’s first major star, the late Pop Smoke, was born to a Jamaican mother and Panamanian father, and is still recognized for his influence on drill music despite his tragic murder in February 2020.
Pop Smoke’s death was a major fulcrum in Brooklyn’s young exercise history. Without its most talented and marketable superstar, would the genre simply retreat into the underground, or could the scene’s remaining players, many of whom were engaged in gang-related feuds, revive it? In order to bounce back, Brooklyn Drill needed their second son to step up. Enter Fivio Stranger.
At the time of Pop Smoke’s death, Fivio was little more than an afterthought. Many thought he was too old for the Brooklyn drill scene, being 29 when his single, “Big Drip”, dropped in 2019. The song was a local hit and has since gone platinum, but never went platinum. entered the charts. global. He then released two EPs and apparently came to fill a niche as an average Brooklyn driller with some real duds to boot. However, he earned a spot in the XXL Freshman 2020 class, an honor for any up-and-coming artist. His career continued to hit hurdles, however, as he endured a stint in prison during what should have been an important developmental phase of his journey. This further delayed his rise so he didn’t really take his turn until he started working with Kanye West. Fivio played a major role in the creative process of donda and had a contender for Verse of the Year on the standout track “Off the Grid.” His verse on “Off the Grid” was more vulnerable, emotional and introspective than any of his earlier work and signaled an ideological shift in the way Fivio approached recording his music.
Fivio adopted this renewed approach in the recording of their first studio album: BIBLE Both West and his lieutenant Mike Dean were heavily involved in the production of the album, with West and the Sunday Service Choir both making guest appearances and Dean earning both production and engineering credits. The West and Alicia Keys attended “City of Gods”, which was released as a single for West’s 2 album, appears on BIBLE and is an example of “sampling exercise”, an emerging subgenre of British and Brooklyn exercise. The drill sample, it seems, is drill music that is built around a pitch-altered sample, often from an old or well-known pop song. “City of Gods,” for example, features Keys singing the chorus of The Chainsmokers’ “New York City,” as the sample that anchors the otherwise hard-hitting beat. There are several examples of drill tracks on the album, some of which are actually quite catchy despite being new, such as “What’s My Name”, while others fall extremely flat. “Love Songs” is particularly cheeky, as it slaughters 2000s Ne-Yo R&B classic “So-Sick” in Fivio’s relatively unemotional attempt at a love song.
When he settles in his strongest qualities on BIBLE, Fivio is at the top of his game. His chemistry with Migos frontman Quavo mirrors that of Pop Smoke, and their two collaborations rank among BIBLE better. “Magic City” is a classic party track, and the interaction between the two men is seamless over a great boring instrument from Axl Beats. “Through the Fire” is arguably more impressive, as Fivio takes center stage and handles a drill-free instrument phenomenally. He also appears to have matured perspective-wise and offers upbeat takes on his career and children over a sampling trap beat “Through the Fire,” another place where Kanye’s influence on the album is apparent.
A frequent collaborator with Kanye, Vory also makes a high-quality contribution to BIBLE with his chirping hook on “Changed on Me”. This song also features another showcase of Polo G’s versatility, as he hops on a drill beat like a natural. On “Slime Them,” Lil Yachty holds his own, giving the genre’s triplet hi-hats and string 808s a boost.
Ultimately, Fivio shows his development as both a rapper and a project man, but the talent gap between him and the man who should have led Brooklyn Drill’s charge into the mainstream is obvious. Fivio’s success is big for both the genre and the city, but all I can think of seeing its rise is that it should have been Pop Smoke.
Daily Arts writer Ryan Brace can be reached at [email protected]