It feels like every day, a new up-and-coming rapper drops their debut album, to the point where keeping up with all these new releases can seem quite daunting, especially when there are so many mediocre albums to filter through before you find the really good stuff. It’s often the case that one’s only exposure to a new rapper before diving into their first album is through any mixtapes they have released before putting together a complete studio project, but mixtapes arguably don’t always reflect the quality of the rapper’s first studio album effort. This is even true of huge names in the rap game; just look at the disappointment caused by Drake’s Views after how great his If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape was. With PnB Rock, however, I was only minimally aware of his mixtape material before checking out this debut album of his. My main source of awareness of the artist arose from his features on other projects and, I must say, I was rather hopeful based on what I had heard. The feature that came to mind first when hearing of this new album was with Kodak Black on Too Many Years on his 2016 album Lil B.I.G. Pac. Too Many Years was one of my favourite tracks on the largely underwhelming release, and what made it stand out was PnB Rock’s feature, which far outshone Kodak Black’s sleepy performance on the cut. He came through with some pretty good bars and delivered them with a nice dose of energy and personality, which I hoped would shine through on his first studio album. I wasn’t necessarily highly expectant of the same quality of performance turning up of GTTM: Goin Thru The Motions seeing as I had based my previous opinions on PnB Rock largely from his features, but I nonetheless had relatively high hopes. Unfortunately, my expectations of PnB Rock on this record were not met as I would have liked them to be.
Much of GTTM: Goin Thru The Motions falls into some of the typical tropes and unfortunate clichés of the brand of street rap that PnB Rock attempts to blend with an R&B-influenced vibe. The opening track Attention was a very weak choice to start the album off and it highlights much of the triteness that appears on this project. The abuse of autotune on the various vocal parts that are clumsily lumped together doesn’t work to the strength of this track. Unfortunately, Wiz Khalifa’s feature does little to aid the track, rather it emphasises many of its flaws. Moreover, the incessant repetition of this track’s hook sucks a large portion of the energy out of PnB Rock’s performance, as the listener grows increasingly tired of the rather weak refrains. This is one of my main issues with this project, as the somewhat lazy song-structure makes a lot of these cuts feel quite tired. What doesn’t help if this a lot of these hooks are pretty anaemic, such as that of the second track There She Go, which features one of the weakest refrains on the record.
GTTM: Goin Thru The Motions is unfortunately not redeemed by the lyrical quality appearing on the majority of these tracks. I was also expecting more from PnB Rock’s lyrics on this release, seeing as his hook on Kodak Black’s Too Many Years was a satisfying meeting of some earnest bars with a charming performance. Sadly, many of the lines on this release range from predictable to merely passable to rather subpar. For instance, the track Notice Me is one of the few tracks on here to move away from archetypal braggadocio, instead centring around PnB Rock’s desire for his girl to pay as much attention to him as she does her phone, in a rather Drake-like vein. When he’s not saying “Do you notice me?” ad nauseum, PnB Rock’s pleas for the girl in question to pay more attention to him feel rather lame. When he categorises his means of “showin’ love” as liking all of this girl’s pictures and retweeting her posts, it isn’t indicative of a properly reflective or aware stream of consciousness. This is particularly annoying as, in spite of much of the ceaseless repetition that reappears on this song, PnB Rock’s crooning is rather well-performed and displays the potential that had made me expect more from this release.
Certain tracks on this release come considerably closer to my expectations for the project than the bulk of what appears here. The lead single from this album, and PnB Rock’s most important track to date, Selfish, stands out as having some of the richest and most interesting production on GTTM that progresses rather well as to make the four-minute runtime of the song not feel bloated. PnB Rock’s vocal performance warrants little criticism, and the harmonised vocals that appear to complement his vocals during the second half of the hook are a nice detail that pays off well. Stand Back, despite being unfortunately confined to the last spot on the record, features one of PnB Rock’s most memorable flows on the album and an impressive feature from A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and the pair demonstrate a pretty good cohesiveness with their performances on this cut. Playa No More also features A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and is another track that stands out thanks to the duo’s performance, which is paired well with some pretty solid production, featuring some great piano samples and a smooth synth bass.
Before my closing thoughts on this project, it should be noted that the 51-minute runtime of this project feels unwarranted, and GTTM: Goin Thru The Motions would have yielded much better results were the more underwhelming tracks around the centre of the album’s duration scrapped, leaving the album at a more digestible 30-40 minute runtime. I also feel that this project would have benefited from a notable adjustment to the running order of the songs that appear on here, as the two first cuts on this thing are rather unsatisfying as openers for the album, whereas a track like Playa No More most likely would have gone over to better effect as an introductory track.
Whilst GGTM: Goin Thru The Motions was a bit of a disappointment overall that largely failed to come close to the expectations that my previous exposure to PnB Rock had engendered, I do not feel entirely pessimistic about his work. The good ideas and performances on this record appeared in rather limited quantities, but they nonetheless point to potential improvement from the Philadelphian crooner on future projects. Until then, this project won’t have me waiting with bated breath for a new release from PnB Rock, but it hasn’t completely ruined my hopes for his future. With more focus, the young rapper can overcome the most pertinent flaws of this release, namely the tepid song structure, the inadequate performances on a lot of the songs around the middle of the tracklisting and the mundane and often uneventful lyrics.
The Vinyl Verdict: 5/10