SOB x RBE is an up and coming west coast hip hop group unsigned to a label that recently built a following purely from several mixtapes, appearances on soundcloud, and live performances. Amidst this giant sea of rappers on the internet with a similar sound, the group’s distinctly northern Californian sound demonstrated that they were a force not to let slip by you; after all, it’s not an approach that’s seen very often in the mainstream. Their appearance on the Black Panther soundtrack song Paramedic immediately prior to its release definitely contributed to the hype behind their sophomore album, and gave many fans and critics high hopes. It had the potential to be one of the most unique rap projects of the year.
Unfortunately, while the group has clear ability to grow into something noteworthy within the hip hop scene, they often let their potential fall flat with redundancy. GANGIN is inhabited by more filler than substantial songs; SOB x RBE frequently reuses the same flows, production techniques, and lyrical topics, and their limited vocabulary is exactly what it needed for all of its songs to blend together into a web of similarity. Taking much of anything away from individual songs has proven to be difficult, other than a few moments here and there towards the first half of the record.
Even so, GANGIN does have above-average production for a modern trap/pop rap album, with fairly polished, chilling beats. Although most of the members haven’t blown me away with their flow, delivery, or lyricism, Daboii’s vocal aggression carries the weight of the album’s tracks effectively and starts the record off on the right foot with his appearance in Carpoolin. Yhung T.O.’s smooth, r&b-style vocal tends to get the job done on many of the hooks despite not necessarily being anything to write home about.
And the record’s hooks do shine. Whether you’re drawn to this project or not, it’s tough not to be drawn into tracks like Anti Social and Lifestyle based on this aspect. Lyrically, they’re also some of the strongest on the album; the group calls out the bullshit of their contemporaries on Anti Social, and Lifestyle delves into the darker side of their lives. Both have smooth, sleek beats and Paid in Full is a nice change in pace with noticeably stripped-back production and a single heart-thumping verse from Daboii. Carpoolin is subtly produced as well, but it’s punchy and has careful attention to detail; it's one of the record’s most rewarding moments.
Despite this, there are some clear-cut examples of redundancy in GANGIN. The bass piano notes on No Discussion and On Me are nearly the same, and the synth leads on Always and Back to Back are pretty much identical. God may trick you into thinking it could be an important lyrical moment, but although its subject matter is heavier, it doesn’t say anything genuinely refreshing. What the hooks had going for them fall flat in the second half with poorly written moments like Stuck Up and The Man Now. The deeper cuts of the record tend to be entirely forgettable, and uses the same formula in nearly all of them.
This equation becomes painfully tiresome and makes drawing any memorable impact from the record difficult. The record’s lack of deeper substance unfortunately prevented me from enjoying it the way I wanted to. Still, the group has their whole careers ahead of them, so there’s always the chance that they’ll evolve into an entity with more impact. The project certainly displays potential, so SOB x RBE is a collective to keep an eye on.