BigXthaPlug: Amar Album Review | Pitchfork

With his slimy, authoritative baritone, impenetrable southern drawl and hard-earned street smarts, BigXthaPlug’s trap stories possess Texan cool painted in candy. Most importantly, the Dallas rapper is a playwright. He taps into his inner playwright on “Dream,” a cut from his debut album. Love, where he documents the everyday misery he experienced when he couldn’t afford Popeyes. His granular detail evokes the kind of despair you can taste: “I was so broke I couldn’t even buy a cookie / I couldn’t clear my throat, ’cause the drink was $2.50.”

As sincere as it is hyperspecific, the song captures the best of Love, a new project named after BigX’s son. While at times stifled by repetition and lapses of imagination, the album stands as a compelling exercise in cinematic street rap. Across 13 tracks, BigX deviates through solemn R&B and soul samples, scornful brags, and lucid reminiscences, letting out percussive flows and tightly coiled rhyme schemes, the kind that can only come from a true technician. Like some of the best writers, he can be convincingly charming, moving, or wrathful. Often he is all three at once.

On “Safehouse,” he glides through militaristic percussion and a foreboding piano loop, unloading one-liners that would make Dirty Harry blush. Meanwhile, in “Bacc to the Basics,” he reflects on the most basic instincts of a trap survivor before lamenting the roots of a fractured family bond. With his penchant for piling on written detail and altering the speed and intensity of his tonal inflections, BigX’s best songs deliver an emotional immediacy that’s impossible to fake.

But between the death threats and the daily struggles, he’s having fun here, too. In “Texas,” she wades through southern blues while offering a playful but vivid take on the sociology of his home state. It’s not quite as anthemic as Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” or Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris’ “Welcome to Atlanta,” but its laid-back sensibility reflects the parking lot pimping of its inspiration. There is a lovely warmth that makes you feel his sincere admiration for the place that raised him.

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While BigX’s rhymes are usually sharp, he sometimes inadvertently lulls them to sleep by losing specificity. This makes some of their trench bars bland; they end up carrying the redundancy of countless other rags-to-riches platitudes, like the celebratory performance of “Change.” (“I remember those days being a neighborhood superstar/now the whole town says my name.”)

As his longest project so far: 2020 back from the dead and 2022 big step by step it was only six songs each – BigX sometimes struggles to carry the weight of additional material. Some moments resemble generic versions of tracks by other artists infused with more individuality, like “Thick,” which includes a droning hook that has all the originality of a Google search for “twerk song.” It’s even more apparent that Erica Banks, who appears on the track alongside Tay Money, already did a better rendition of the same thing last year.

There are some unexpected production flourishes here, but overall, Love it doesn’t do much to elevate the rapper it hosts. BigX is still figuring out how to help itself too. Combining a screenwriter’s knack for harnessing histrionics with a freestyler’s knack for piling intricate rhymes onto emphatic punch lines, he always knows how to deliver captivating individual verses. The next step is to merge them with less predictable song structures and more memorable hooks (as they are, they often feel like placeholders meant to bridge the gap between one verse and the next). But that’s okay; after all, he has only abandoned three projects. With his knowledge of storytelling and the presence of him on the mic, BigXthaPlug is worth turning up again.

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