November 27, 2021

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Bktherula: Love Black Album Review


Sometimes, Atlanta’s Bktherula cuts raging headbangers big and polished enough for her city’s mainstream machine. Other times, the 19-year-old’s songs are melodic and ethereal, with a demo-like feel that has more in common with the local underground scene. On her fun-enough 2020 mixtapes—Nirvana and Love Santana—that versatility sounded cooler on paper. The problem with both projects was that the lush tracks felt derivative, and her lovestruck lyrics and sweet-sounding melodies weren’t interesting enough to elevate the records beyond vibes. Meanwhile, the haymakers were fully formed, sparked by a no-bullshit attitude and chaotic energy that too often disappeared on her softer songs.

Bktherula’s newest album, Love Black, is her best yet because those two moods—upbeat and disruptive—bleed into one another more seamlessly. “Hit Me” is hummable and, at the same time, sounds like Bk is ready to superkick a hole in a wall. Similarly, Rxlvnd’s beat on “Ye Ho” is so spaced out it might freeze you like sleep paralysis. Bk layers the hazy instrumental with a hypnotic spell of adlibs—“huh,” “yeah,” “uh”—that are more impactful than any lyrics she could have written for the song. The Digital Nas-produced “Incredible” opens with a bang (“I run up them bands and get that guap, that’s what I had to do/You can’t call me Black right now ’cause bitch, I’m fucking mad at you”), and Bk raps as if she could rip a phonebook in half with her hands. The lyrics aren’t as memorable on “Through 2 U,” and they’re maybe even bad (“I got all my niggas in the bus with me like Scooby Doo”), but the ear-splitting drums and her punishing delivery could inspire a fulfilling spree of vandalism and destruction.

Love Black has its fluff, too. Bk half-heartedly coos about some unspecific love over a Mac Demarco sample on “IDK What to Tell You,” a song seemingly designed in a TikTok lab to go viral. “Placement” is dragged down by the demonic filter Matt Ox puts on his vocals and feels like it’s trying to be weird rather than actually being weird. Then on “Nah,” Bk croons over the type of airy Surf Gang beat that would typically go to BabyxSosa, but her whiny melodies are tired. There seems to be a part of this album that wants to slightly clean up the edges and get her swooped up into the algorithm, but her music is more about her city than it is of the internet.

What’s most exciting about Love Black is the way so many feelings coexist on a track; it’s not as one-note as similarly vibey rappers like Ken Car$on—and to a lesser extent Yeat—who swear they’re the ultimate ragers. On “Hide Your Hoe,” Bk is smitten with someone and yet returns to her trifling ways; she’s bitter and doesn’t give a shit on “She Choose Me.” These emotions may seem relatively simple, but it’s the wrinkle she missed too often before and now commands.


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