L.A. Rapper Skeme releases his anger on “Inglewood 3” with ease and effortlessness. Will he scare new fans away, or shock the world?
The rap game is an unforgiving place, all too often. Plenty of talents come and go, getting lost in the shuffle, when there are literally dozens of rappers coming up and burning out in the blink of an eye. Especially in the Los Angeles scene, where a certified talent can have a stellar year but have a hell of a time trying to break on the national circuit. In the case of Skeme, he’s done reliable hard-hitting work; his hook and verse on Problem’s “T.O.” made the song a certified banger in the dawn of DJ Mustard‘s career, while his appearances on the super-producer’s Ketchup mixtape were top-notch foulness, and he earned the respect of Los Angeles darlings TDE. Yet, of all the things, it was the vehemently-denied rumors that Skeme was the ghostwriter for a certain Australian rapper’s pop crossover hit that put him in the broader public eye. A stupid reason, especially with records like Ingleworld 3 continuing to remind people that Skeme is still one of the most solid talents in his city, and for rap as a whole.
Ingleworld 3 has one goal really, and that’s to provide you with banger after banger. For a lot of rappers, this usually becomes the easiest way to guarantee that your album is going to be boring and worthless, because not every reach for a hit clicks perfectly. But Skeme is a rapper whose goal seems to be making a handful of songs that would make the perfect soundtrack for backhanding someone so hard their teeth go flying about. If you listen to a track like “The Realest,” where he mentions his fondness for invoking the holy ghost to rebuke the broke and “leave you with a broken jaw for mouthing off,” it’s kind of hard to argue that he doesn’t achieve his goal pretty easily. Some rappers move with sophistication and subtlety, but a guy like Skeme is about as subtle as a lug wrench to a kneecap. And while his bars stay to the purpose of making sure you understand just how tough this guy is, his deliveries shift violently. The way the auto-tuned Ghostface-like agonized cries on intro “We Against The World Again” give away to the terse drill-sergeant delivery and hypnotic sneers on “Anyway,” can leave you surprised that all of those personalities seem to be coming from one human body, all with the same goal of fucking up seas of imaginary enemies.
Now that isn’t to say that the album is just wall-to-wall cruelty without a purpose, nor is Skeme lacking any sort of flexibility. Taking benefactor and known riot critic T.I. with him as co-pilot on “Go,” the duo fantasize of retaliation on foes from any possible position of society, including corrupt police with intense viciousness (doing the Khalil & Futuristiks beat a bit more justice than the clumsy “Moment of Violence” by The Game). “Reppin” radiates the saccharine narcissism of mid-period Drake, with just a tad bit more grit than Aubrey’s acting skills could ever let him pull off, albeit not the same levels of pomp. If anything, Inglewood 3 is a remarkably LEAN album, eager to get to the point and rarely taking the time to deviate into grandiose interludes, skits or segues. While that can translate to some listeners to a lack of ambition, it’s telling that Skeme simply wants the effort of his performances to motivate you. When you hear Skeme on the closer, “Walk With Me,” where he speaks rather sombrely, from the heart, it’s pretty hard for someone to say the guy isn’t an equally compelling artist when he puts the tough-guy talk aside.
Yet at the same time, a few of the deviations can seem to dilute the effectiveness of the project. “36 Oz.” has a lush horn sample, but relies on a particularly key-deprived and blubbery Chris Brown to reach a level of glory that its star guest really detracts from. Meanwhile on a light breezy track like “All I Know,” Skeme sounds too tense, while his cameos from Cire and Shon Doe, don’t do much to assist the song. “Lucci” sounds like dozens of hits we’ve already heard before, but offers no edge to make it something really unique. Given how solid and workmanlike Skeme can be, there does remain a lingering desire to see him burst out of being such a solid rapper and take that extra step that puts him on a higher level.
Ingleworld 3 is not an album that will revolutionize the rap game for anyone who listens to it. But there’s something to be said about a man who can make albums that sound as gutter as any mixtape without the disposable nature that frequents such projects. Relying on solid production and his own intensity, Skeme is still a rapper worth listening to, even if his star isn’t blinding with brilliance. Still, in a city with so much talent to offer, it is no small feat to be one of L.A.’s hardest– and Skeme shows no signs of stopping.