Young Nudy: Gumbo Album Review

Young Nudy is known for his appetite: he’s a consummate foodie and perpetual snack victim who’s become something of the MF DOOM of East Atlanta. To whet the appetite of his devoted fans, who are eagerly awaiting the release of culinary tracks like “Loaded Baked Potato,” “Sunflower Seeds” and “Blue Cheese Salad,” Nudy has served up a 13-course meal, aka his new project Gumbo. Each track touches on a different vector of the food pyramid: “Brussel Sprout” and “Okra” for your daily serving of veggies, “McChicken” or “Fish & Chips” for lunch, and a slice of “Passion Fruit” to cleanse the palate. . .

The loose concept shows how Nudy’s projects have adjusted over time. Although his mixtapes have rarely ventured more than an hour, each release brings greater cohesiveness and focus, with more care in sequencing the track listing. Gumbo play as a frat twin from last year ea monster, right down to the similar slime green and red color schemes of its cover art. Nudy delivers a late-2000s DatPiff-era funhouse distortion, manifesting as the flesh-and-blood version of mixtape covers where Gucci Mane was photoshopped into Buzz Lightyear, or depicted devouring pancakes.

In a 2019 interview, Nudy modestly commented that he picks “every beat that motherfuckers hate.” But he’s not giving himself enough credit, because it’s his unpredictable taste that has inspired his cult following, and it’s what keeps his work from slipping toward formulaic. Regular collaborator Coupe handles most of the production at Gumbo, and his evocative style enhances, but never overwhelms, Nudy’s cartoonish singularity. He’s not too cool, not too naughty, but he’s always perfect.

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The “Brussel Sprout” opener is captivatingly smooth, built around a scintillating keyboard line. But before there’s even a chance to breathe, the beat deftly veers into the more aggressive “Pancake,” which sounds like a ’90s No Limit cut beamed into outer space. That rapid and unexpected change of pace is a standout moment in Gumbo—it’s barely a moment, just the gap between the songs. Still, that careful attention to detail is a quality that sets Nudy apart from other rappers of his generation. His work feels like a full album experience, but it also doubles as a shuffle playlist.

Many of Nudy’s selections feel influenced by video game soundtracks, but never in a consciously retro or referential way. He mario painting-like shimmer always recedes before going full chiptune, offset by thick bass and tight drums, with a tactility that keeps samples and synths from getting lost in a galaxy far, far away. There’s a whimsical feel here, one that never leans towards novelty or preciousness. “Portabella,” Nudy’s affectionate ode to dosing, is as genuinely psychedelic as anything on Lil Yachty. let’s start here: Rippling new-age synths come and go smoothly, as bells ring out and Nudy’s voice melts into a dubby haze. More than any single point of reference, Nudy’s output shares a fundamental tenet with video game music, which often realizes the possibilities of music as a fully electronic medium. Neither he nor his producers have any interest in specific instrument sounds or beats that feel analog; he is drawn to the open potential of the sound itself.

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