With the promotion cycle for XXL‘s 2017 Freshman Class well underway, the music world has been graced with another batch of 10 up-and-coming rappers who will be taking every opportunity to push out as much material as possible whilst their names are still in the hip hop community’s lexicon. Honestly, I can’t say that I would pay anywhere near as much attention to the happenings of the XXL Freshmen as I do if it weren’t for this website. Not only am I not a fan of XXL magazine in general, but their annual selection of 10 budding, must-watch MCs is always predictable in the worst way possible, with the choices largely being focussed around the rappers over the course of the past year who have had viral hits, most of which also retain some sort of meme status. As such, very few of these artists tend to show any substance in their work and seldom appeal to me in any significant fashion, not to mention the fact that so many fall by the wayside of mainstream relevancy in the years following their Freshman run, as will probably be the case with the likes of Playboi Carti and MadeinTYO from this year’s bunch. My disappointment with XXL‘s Freshman Class picks potentially come to a head this year, with Kamaiyah being the only MC whose recent material I had been exceptionally impressed by, whilst only a very limited selection of the other artists, in my opinion, had conveyed any semblance of promise previously. Of the few appointees who caught my eye, Royce Rodriguez, known by his recording alias of Ugly God, displayed more potential than any other chosen MC to genuinely shake up the usual Freshman Class proceedings and use his self-flagellating, underdog status to turn the tables in his favour in a really endearing manner.
The singles dropped by the rapper prior to the release of his debut mixtape, The Booty Tape, acted as appropriately animated modus operandi for his style of blue humour that seamlessly switches between self-deprecation and self-aggrandisation, with Water being a song in which Ugly God brags about his ability to pick up women despite being unattractive, whilst Fuck Ugly God is a hilarious diss track directed at the MC himself. As brazenly fun as these handful of tracks are, however, the fact that no other material had been released by Ugly God prior to the launch of The Booty Tape undoubtedly led to questions regarding whether or not the rapper would be able to maintain his quirky, oddball personality across a full-length project. After all, looking at his performance during the Freshman Class hype cycle thus far reveals the potential for a rather mixed bag of results, with the MC’s showing during the freestyle round being as playful and amusing as one could hope for, whilst his Cypher appearance was almost entirely forgettable, and not solely because of it being overshadowed by XXXTENTACION’s edgy performance. Indeed, this disparity in Ugly God’s capacity to preserve his droll, self-hating charm appears across the 23-minute duration of The Booty Tape, with the best cuts in the tracklisting mainly being confined to the songs that have already been released as singles, whilst a significant portion of the other eight tracks succumb to the many trap motifs that work against the rapper’s core appeal. Although Ugly God’s debut mixtape hardly dashes all hope for the possibility of his future material striking the same self-deprecating hilarity of Water and Fuck Ugly God, it does nevertheless suggest that the MC may not be cut out for full-length projects.
With both of the singles from The Booty Tape proving him to have a great sense of humour that he can convey through some unapologetically self-deprecating witticisms, it seemed as if Ugly God could be a breath of fresh air in the mainstream rap game who could subvert and deconstruct trap tropes relating to braggadocio and senseless hedonism in a funny and self-aware fashion, all whilst not taking himself too seriously. After all, this is essentially what the premise of Water is, with the rapper’s initial provocative bravado receiving a hilarious pay-off as he starts throwing insults at himself as to emphasise just how repulsive the song’s addressee must be if even someone as hideous as Ugly God can steal his girl. It’s a similar subversion of contemporary rap clichés that makes Fuck Ugly God so strong too, as the track could easily be mistaken for any old diss track if someone just happened to stumble across the song without realising that the recipient of these criticisms is the artist himself. This idea of Ugly God directing a diss track at himself becomes more amusing the more one thinks about it. Not only is it one of the most ruthless diss tracks in recent memory — because, after all, who is more familiar with Ugly God’s embarrassing and repugnant faults than Ugly God himself? — but it also beats any other rappers to the punch should the MC ever find himself in a beef, as releasing a diss track about the man who has already released a merciless diss track about himself would ultimately be futile and self-defeating. Although expecting The Booty Tape to be some sort of exhaustive deconstruction of the entire trap genre would be ludicrous, it was certainly fair to hope that Ugly God would come through with the same brand of self-conscious, sardonic shrewdness that made Water and Fuck Ugly God so compelling. Yet, for the most part, not only does much of the mixtape fall into a relatively typical trap routine from an instrumental perspective, but Ugly God’s lyrical topics and deliveries also resort to rather commonplace platitudes, whilst the few instances of attempted wordplay lack the substance of the tape’s two singles. The MC’s closest attempt at attaining the same degree of self-deprecating absurdity of Water and Fuck Ugly God is on L.D.C, wherein his boastful bars about representing the Little Dick Clique strike some humorous highs at times, but much of the main body of the song is rather perfunctory beyond its surface-level jest. In fact, this sums up much of The Booty Tape, in that many of these songs will be based around an admittedly zany idea, but will witness Ugly God only take these concepts to a very superficial end without expanding on them for the amount of amusement that he could have achieved. Case in point, the MCs dissing abilities are clearly not as impactful when aimed at someone other than himself, with the song Stop Smoking Black & Milds resorting to the same branch of unsubstantial disrespect that could be expected from any old SoundCloud freestyle. What’s more, with cuts such as I’m Tryna Fuck, wherein, as the title suggests, the rapper explores his desperate and unashamed attempts at coaxing women into having sex with him, the subject matter seems as if it could provide the perfect playing field for Ugly God to toy with portraying himself in some gloriously obscene scenarios as a result of his failed attempts at attracting girls, but the end product reads rather similarly to the way in which many a trap artist would handle this song concept. Ultimately, whilst there are some clever ideas presented throughout the tracklisting, such as the inclusion of an excerpt of YouTuber CUFBOYS’ mother reacting negatively to Water and I Beat My Meat on the introductory track, much of The Booty Tape is disappointingly run-of-the-mill for the trap territory that Ugly God, at the best of times, manages to both be a part of and mock, instead of crystallising himself as the king of self-aggrandisation and self-deprecation that he could be if he fully committed himself to the comedic sharpness that he has previously displayed.
At the worst of times, it’s not so much that The Booty Tape is at all bad, rather there were a great deal of moments that simply read as far too familiar for an artist who could so clearly carve out a definitive musical identity for himself within contemporary hip hop if he genuinely put his mind to it. Then again, with this mixtape being only 23 minutes, it’s perfectly likely that Ugly God wanted to quickly bash out a full-length project while the XXL Freshman hype cycle was still in full effect, as to cling onto every ounce of relevancy that this year will grant him during his time working on whatever more ambitious undertaking he has set his sights on. Of course, this may be far too optimistic a viewpoint and it’s a possibility that Ugly God’s bouts of comedic creativity will only ever be cogently translated through individual tracks that he can drop whenever he should so choose, as opposed to across the course of entire albums or mixtapes. If this were the case, it would unequivocally be a shame, but given the direction in which modern music consumption is heading, taking the route of an exclusively singles artist may not be a bad bid at all for someone such as Ugly God. Either way, whilst The Booty Tape doesn’t entirely solidify Ugly God’s status as the self-deprecating eccentric that he could unquestionably establish himself as, the sheer twisted brilliance of singles like Water and Fuck Ugly God preserve hope that the MC will be able to cement a categorical character for himself in the future.
The Vinyl Verdict: 6/10