In the always-expanding sea of aspiring rappers, there’s a couple tried and true ways for an up-and-coming rapper to shoot to the front of the line: Smart marketing or sheer luck. Memphis rhymer Blocboy JB’s ascent relied on a bit of both. His “Shoot” single caught fire in his region and became a viral hit because of its accompanying dance, which caught the attention of Drake, the rainmaker himself. Blocboy has said that Drake hit him up on Instagram, and they soon crafted their hit record, “Look Alive”.
The song rose to the top of the Apple Music charts and immediately made people want to know who Blocboy JB is. The 21-year-old followed up this with the recently-released Simi mixtape, and unfortunately, that question still remains. Blocboy’s 18-track project shows if nothing else, that he has a strong ear for beats and his go-to producer Tay Keith should be even more in demand. But unfortunately, he used that collection of trunk rattlers to repeatedly craft what amounts to the same song.
On the bright side, Blocboy’s greatest asset is his energy. On “Nun Of Dat” featuring Lil Pump, “Left Hand,” and “Rover 2.0,” he showcases his ability to come at the track with different flows, as if deadset on showing people that no Drake feature defines him. His ad-libs are full of vigor throughout the project. The way he snarls “that n—– talkin’ like a b*tch” on “Nike Swoosh” makes you feel for the next person he got mad at after recording the song, exemplifying how his gung-ho mic presence augments the suite of thumping, 808-predicated trap bangers. The project definitely has a couple heaters that could end up on Memorial Day weekend playlists all over.
We know Blocboy has a knack for dancing and seems like an affable personality from interviews and on social, but after a while, even the excitement of knowing you’re listening to one of Memphis’ next big things wears thin when you realize he’s not bringing much else to the table. There’s no need to be a lyrical animal on production that makes a strong impression in itself, but Blocboy doesn’t do enough to set himself apart from the lot of flashy, threat-a-minute trap MCs. Blocboy doesn’t have to vie for the next Pulitzer or anything on Simi, but all the best trap artists excel by alluring listeners into a world shaped by their best gifts — there’s 2 Chainz’ knack for wordplay, Gucci Mane’s sense of humor, Future’s nihilism, Rick Ross’ hyperbolic bombast, or 21 Savage’s mere menace, to name a few qualities. You enjoy them for what they do best, and you don’t hear them using their weaknesses as a go-to.
One of Blocboy’s biggest flaws is his insistence on worn-to-shreds similes. He’ll “lay you down like a welcome mat” on “Nun Of Dat.” He tells haters, “like a plastic bag I see through you” on “Rover 2.0.” He wants to “work a b*itch like she up at Planet Fitness” on the coarsely titled “Asian B*tch.” He “ball (bald) like Caillou” on the YG-assisted “Nike Swoosh.” He raps, I “got my stripes like the Bengals” on “Mexico.” Then he torpedoes the catchy hook of “Wait” with “I keep that K like I’m Kanye.” It seems like he has an average of one or two distractingly basic similes per song. Every great trap artist has their own flourish, but Blocboy doesn’t stake his claim to any notable distinction on Simi.
Beyond the flawed similes, his lyrics consist of average bars about shooting, balling, and wooing women that just about anyone vaguely familiar with rap would jot down if asked to rhyme over his beats. His threats are of the generic, “he gon’ get his f*cking chain took, and his brains took,” variety, as he rapped on “Feature.” There’s not enough wit or otherwise distinguishable characteristics on Simi.
What’s most troubling is that in an era when having a story is such an essential road to growing a core fanbase, Blocboy doesn’t offer much insight at all into who he is or where he’s come from. He’s acknowledged being a Crip but doesn’t offer much insight into his life of gang-banging. He raps, “thinkin’ ’bout the days when a n—- wasn’t rappin’ / we was robbin’, straight jackin’, tryin’ to make some sh*t happen,” on “Good Day,” but doesn’t let us in further on what went into making things happen. He spits, “Ya’ll don’t know what I been through / don’t know what I seen before,” on “Straight Drop,” but again fails to expand on just what he’s seen before.
His most reflective moment, his first verse on “Left Right,” veers off focus after he promisingly asks, “see how society makes us?” He calls out haters and fake friends like every rapper, but like most of them, he doesn’t actually say what they’ve done to him. What’s the “my cousin sold my laptop” moment that jaded him so palpably? Just a shred of context or narrative would have gone a long way into endearing him more on tracks where he attempted to stray from the insipid.
Simi is a decent contribution to the ephemeral, predicated-on-abundance, turn-up scene that shows Blocboy has the know-how and ear for beats to keep feeding the streets with Tay Keith in his corner. However, the mixtape isn’t a strong exhibition of what he offers outside of the turn-up. The bangers needed to be interspersed with at least a couple songs where he shows a desire to reflect on his past, condemn the civic apathy that made him a product of his environment, perhaps delve into his romantic/family life, or attempt some kind of sustained lyrical approach outside of bragging or threatening — because he doesn’t even do that in a memorable fashion.
Perhaps this is just his “happy to be here” project, and he has more varied work in the tank. For now, he has the network and name recognition to keep listeners interested, but he has a lot of work to do stay Drake’s favorite rapper when the next buzzing artist reaches into Aubrey’s orbit.
Simi is available via Bloc Nation. Get it here.