New Jersey-based beatmaker Clams Casino dropped an album including 12 tracks and 12 instrumentals last month. His debut, titled 32 Levels, is packed full of guest vocal appearances from the likes of A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, Lil B, Kelela, Mikky Ekko and more.
For a guy whose production pushes the sound of trap and hip-hop into strange but exciting new realms, it’s surprising how much commercial success he has already achieved. The guest rappers on this project especially are a testament to the respect he has earned in recent years.
Opener Level 1 comes tumbling in, full of wonder, its messy drum rolls and delicious sweeping vocals are a charming match up. An introduction that leads brilliantly into the first collaboration featuring A$AP Rocky; Be Somebody is seriously well put together. This is an example of both artists on top form, resulting in a harmonious blend of something that’s equally hard and soft. All Nite features Vince Staples, who again is hitting his stride – some of his best bars to date roll over an ominous electronic hip-hop beat. The production is full of energy, drum machines, creepy sound effects and a sonar-like melody, making it sound like early 2000’s Ciara in a submarine. These depths and a similar palette are used for the Lil B collaboration Witness, this time, however, is it more of a trap affair. Vocally it feels a little weaker than what has come before, but that may be due to Vince and Rocky punching above their weight.
Skull, 32 Levels, Thanks To You and Back To You all show a much more musical and sombre approach; from pop to footwork influences, these tracks show great versatility. Some may be shocked by the more soulful side to the second half of this album. Ghost in a Kiss sits somewhere in between the two styles and has an intriguing vocal. After this, we are treated to the incredible Blast, a track which stands out as one of the scene’s best of 2016. Each element sits together brilliantly, with a repetitive vocal and natural layers taking things deeper. After this, we hear some instrumentals, including versions of what has come before. These give you a chance to really appreciate his use of sampling and synthesis without the distraction of a singer or rapper.
Overall, it’s difficult to criticise this project, even with its best moments arguably being the first few tracks it still manages to maintain its momentum. There truly is something for everybody on this album, fans of rap and pop alike will definitely have their favourites. The way Clams has managed to stay true to his futuristic, weird and wonderful production style is commendable, and hopefully this album will receive the success that it deserves.
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