"What the f**k was that?"
A young woman asked that question as she left the Bladee show in Brisbane. It’s a rhetorical question but it’s one worth answering.
Bladee is a Swedish rapper that makes cloud rap. Cloud rap is a genre that has fallen in and out of vogue over the last five or so years. It’s drenched in auto tune. Its lyrics are usually meaningless. It has a do-it-yourself aesthetic that is equal parts clumsy as it is endearing. It is the purest distillation of a too common buzzword in music journalism - it is a “vibe”.
Early pioneers of cloud rap such as A$AP Rocky went on to sign major label record deals. Underground legends such as Yung Lean maintain a dedicated fan base but remain only "internet famous". Bladee is on the extreme latter side of that spectrum. He never chased mainstream success and his music reflects that fact. It burrows deep into cloud rap clichés: ethereal dream-like production style, warped vocals and simple but emotive lyricism. It’s a combination that makes for an interesting live performance.
Bladee is a reserved and shy performer. His stage presence is unassuming. He is a scrawny white kid, dressed in baggy clothes. He often pulls the hood of his jumper over his head as if he is shy. It’s a presence that starkly contrasts with your average rapper. But that is not a bad thing. Bladee's music is the product of the internet. It’s music made by a kid who grew up in Sweden and consumed rap from over the internet. It is only fitting that it be performed by a shy kid, detached from the expectations and stereotypes associated with your average rapper.
That said, the show was not faultless. Bladee performs over a vocal backing track. At times this was necessary ('Decay' requires multiple vocal tracks layered on top of one another to create a desired effect) but at other times it was lazy.
‘Sugar’ served as the show’s finale. It’s a song that distils Bladee’s sound and is a fitting climax to his live performance. It features a single verse and relies on a repetitive hook mumbled in an autotuned Swedish accent. Its lyrics compare the taste of a lover’s blood to sugar. It’s the kind of song that may cause someone to ask “what the f**k was that?”.
Well, it’s a “vibe”.