Two years after the release of their first collaborative, self titled album DG, the swedish rap collective Drain Gang is back with Trash Island. The swedish rap group consisting of Bladee, Thaiboy Digital and Ecco2k, has had quite the past year. Bladee, the self proclaimed “Drain Gang CEO,” is coming off the release of his most popular mixtape yet, Icedancer. While Bladee is not a new name in hip hop, he is very much up and coming. Bladee has received criticism from music reviewers for being another Yung Lean clone, who is one of Bladee’s frequent collaborators and friends. After the success of his mixtapes Red Light and Icedancer, Bladee has in many ways made a name for himself while creating a cult following like few other artists of his popularity. Bladee has been teasing Trash Island for a long time, releasing a couple successful singles over the past year with seemingly no real purpose, such as “Trash Star,” “Apple,” and recently “Vanilla Sky” which is why the surprise release and the fact that the album was collaborative shocked his fanbase. It wasn’t clear what Trash Island was, whether it was a solo album, or even a clothing line, Bladee is very unpredictable. Another reason fans found themselves shocked was the near release of the highly anticipated of Thaiboy Digital’s Legendary Member, a solo project the group has been teasing for two years, being released on September 23rd.
The first song on the album “1:1” is a strong start to the project. While some fans might find themselves uncomfortable with Ecco’s new style that he has recently teased on Bladee’s “Vanilla Sky” single, as well as Thaiboy Digital’s “Lip Service” single, it is a more than welcome change in my opinion. While Ecco was always an interesting feature, his new high pitched singing is far more unique then his past style. The Yung Lean feature is nothing groundbreaking but is also nothing to complain about. This track is very promising, as it is best Thaiboy Digital and Ecco have ever sounded throughout their careers.
Previous to “Trash Island,” I am probably in the minority of people who felt that Thaiboy was the weakest member of the group. Thaiboy’s old work either sounded extremely unenthusiastic and uncomfortable (which could be due to him rapping in English, which is his third language to Thai and Swedish) or extremely aggressive. Thaiboy digital has greatly improved on this project, showcasing a more original, and personal flow then his previous work. “30th Floor” might as well be a solo Thaiboy song, as Bladee’s verse sounds extremely safe and boring. Thaiboy no longer sounds like is unsure if he wants to be rapping, which is a positive deviation from his previous work. “Waterfall” is another song where Thaiboy showed confidence. It feels like this was the style was always aiming for, and is finally achieving. Bladee’s verse on this song is more monotone than his usual style, however works with the beat. Ecco mixes his previous style, combined his new voice. This song is one of many on this mixtape that feels very “Drain gang.” They have undoubtedly found a new level chemistry that was not present on DG.
In the middle of the album, the song “Victim” is a solid track, with a melodic flow from Bladee. However, Ecco’s androynous high pitched verse on this song outshines Bladee hook. However, the next track “Western Union” is by far the best song on the project, if not the best song that they have ever released. Ecco returns to his previous deep voice, more energetic than ever. Bladee’s verse on this track is definitely an improvement from the rest of his performance on this album. Any Bladee fan will find themselves right at home listening to this song. However, the next song “The Void,” is a strong contrast from the energetic flow used in “Western Union.” Bladee utilizes a creepy, whispery flow over a slow sad sounding beat. Lyrically, this is the most cryptic song on the whole album. The average Bladee fan may find themselves uncomfortable listening to this track, which I don’t believe in a positive thing in this case. It seems more like a try hard attempt at being edgy and creepy, that is randomly placed into an album of songs that are relatively energetic and loud, versus fake scary and slow. Luckily, “Acid Rain” is a return to positive change with one of the most interesting beats on this project, with some of the most cryptic lyrics on this project. Bladee re-attempts the whispery, edgy verse but with more aggressive and edgy tone, in between Ecco’s verse and hook, and it is much more successful than “the Void,” however, Ecco’s performance is definitely the standout on this track. The final song on this short album, “You Lose” is a DG era beat with Ecco’s new style. However, by far the worst Bladee verse we have heard in a while. It sounds like Bladee wrote this verse in five minutes after hearing the beat, and recorded it in one take. However, as a long time fan, I’d have a hard time saying this song wasn’t enjoyable. It still has that signature Drain Gang charm, that is present on this whole project.
Overall, this project is a step in the right direction for both Thaiboy and Ecco, but leaves me asking for more from Bladee. The production on this album is outstanding as usual, with some of the coolest and most interesting beats I have ever heard. It also goes without saying that the mixing on this album is a huge step up from past projects. All three members have received a lot of criticism for being almost inaudible on some of their past works, and using beats to hide their weak vocals, however the mixing on this project is much better. Ecco is definitely the standout member on this project, which is extremely confusing because Ecco only has 3 solo songs and a handful of features, as well as the fact as is a full time fashion designer for the swedish fashion label Eytys. I think the majority of fans have been wondering why Ecco2k hasn’t released a solo album yet, and this excellent performance only adds to that curiosity. Thaiboy Digital also shows a lot of promise on this project, which is extremely exciting because Legendary Member drops so soon. While I don’t feel like Bladee was particularly bad, I would expect the “Drain Gang CEO” to have a stronger performance on an album he teased for so long. I also question how finished this album truly was. While it definitely doesn’t sound unfinished, I would not be surprised if this album was cut short and dropped to build anticipation for Legendary Member. I would not be surprised if “Western Union” receives mainstream attention in the following months, as it is a combination of accessible as well unique.
Recommended Tracks: Western Union, 1:1, Acid Rain
Review By: Pietro