by Ben Gardner
New York drill is one of the most popular sounds in modern rap right now. It’s characterized by pulsating basslines, slower tempos than conventional trap, and rapid-fire bars. The subgenre emerged in Brooklyn in the past few years and was spearheaded by an array of young rappers — most notably the late Pop Smoke, who passed away in a home invasion in February of 2020. After his death, the future of drill looked uncertain, but Fivio Foreign (born Maxie Lee Ryles), one of Pop’s contemporaries, has stepped up to the plate as the new leader of the scene.
Fivio Foreign burst onto the scene in 2020 with his breakout hit “Big Drip,” and gained an important Kanye cosign when he appeared in the track “Off the Grid” on his 2021 album Donda. The feature catapulted Fivio Foreign into mainstream status, and exposed him to an audience that wasn’t that familiar with him or drill music as a whole. Kanye took Fivio under his wing and ended up being the executive producer on his new album, B.I.B.L.E.
Kanye’s influence is clear on the album, especially in the first part. On the first track, “On God,” Fivio raps over an angelic choir, which is reminiscent of Kanye’s religious tape Jesus is King. The song is nothing like anything Fivio has ever released before — it is devoid of drums and the other prominent elements of drill beats. Up and coming rapper/singer KayCyy provides uplifting vocals on the chorus, preaching, “And if all fails, at least we don’t gotta struggle.” Fivio provides inspiration as well, spitting bars about his success and his come-up.
The next song, “Through the Fire,” continues the religious themes over another vocal-heavy, gospel-infused beat. Fivio is assisted by Quavo on this track and the next, marking a more upbeat section of the album. The track pays homage to Chaka Khan’s hit single of the same name, as well as Kanye’s track “Through the Wire.” The next track “Magic City” is a more traditional trap banger. The single off of the album “City of Gods” deserves a mention as well. Fivio has some big names on the track: Alicia Keys sings the chorus, and Kanye delivers his self-proclaimed “Feature of the Year,” a dubious claim. The song is an ode to Fivio’s home city, he pays homage to recent New York rap legends Pop Smoke and Bobby Shmurda. The track is coherent and delivers a more mainstream version of the drill sound.
The album gets somewhat monotonous after this point. Fivio experiments with more mainstream pop and RnB sounds on tracks such as “What’s My Name” and “Hello.” The latter is executed well, as Fivio is assisted by singers Chlöe and KayCyy (again). The track “World Watching” samples Ellie Goulding’s 2010 hit “Lights” on a drill beat, an unexpected combination that turns out better than expected.
Of course, there are the expected drill tracks. Some go hard, while some are forgettable. A$AP Rocky effortlessly hops on a drill beat on “Confidence,” and Lil Yachty delivers his best performance in a while on “Slime Them.” Fivio is obviously comfortable rapping over drill beats, and he has his best verses on those kinds of tracks.
Even though Fivio generally performs well on most of the songs on this album, it feels oversaturated and repetitive, especially towards the end. The album has 17 songs, with 16 features in total. Fivio has demonstrated in the past that he is capable of strong solo performances, but he relies too much on features on this album. He also attempts to take New York drill into a more mainstream form, with varying degrees of success. Fivio has the potential to be one of the faces of modern rap for the foreseeable future, but he failed to make himself stand out significantly with this tape. The form of this album is not surprising, but it is disappointing.