by Jack Ognibene
It’s been a busy year for Swedish rap collective Drain Gang, having previously produced and released two albums to general critical acclaim. Thaiboy Digital was the last to have released a major project thus far in 2022, and now that it’s released, it’s obvious that this was almost paradoxically the most half-baked. So much of it sounds like Thaiboy either rehashing, trying to recapture, or even just plain ripping off aesthetics and sounds that Bladee and Ecco2k had already done to death by the time the album released. Mostly, it doesn’t even sound like that – instead, more like some random SoundCloud rapper who wants to be Bladee so bad.
The production on this album is, to be blunt, terrible. There are maybe one or two beats that make a positive impression at all, and the rest are bland and uninteresting, lacking the flavor that other Drain Gang and Thaiboy Digital releases have. Some tracks on the album, namely “The Kingdom” and “Love Potion,” are harder-hitting, but the rest sound like they came from a “Drain Gang type beat” search in SoundCloud. It’s surprising how amateurish it all sounds, and this is probably the most evident in the percussion choices throughout the album. Not only did the engineers mix them way too loud, but the producers chose the most grating, cheap-sounding drum kicks available. This is especially evident on tracks like “Angel,” “All The Way,” and “Mr. CEO,” where the production of the drum beat completely ruins what would otherwise be a passable song.
The vocal performances on this album do it no favors either. Thaiboy’s vocals are weirdly clean on this record – not as in crisp and clear, but with way less character than other Drain Gang members. This would be fine if he could give a good vocal performance most of the time, but he instead chooses to just annoyingly croon over the majority of tracks. It’s to the point where not even autotune can save tracks like “Back 2 Life” or “Angel”: Thaiboy’s incapable of consistently hitting good notes. This is exacerbated by the repetitive and mind-numbing hooks and rapped verses. The few good vocal performances on this record aren’t even delivered by Thaiboy: they’re from Bladee and Yung Lean when they show up on “All The Way” and “The Kingdom” (not even Bladee could save “3 Star Reunite,” that song is just terrible).
It would have been cool for Drain Gang to close out what is probably their biggest year to date on a high note, but unfortunately, they’re ending it with a fizzle. Hopefully, Thaiboy can find more of his own voice both style-wise and production-wise. Back 2 Life, however, shows a clear lack of identity in Thaiboy’s music.