Backxwash Turns Hip-Hop on Its Head with Masterful 'God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It'
Published May 28, 2020Backxwash's emergence as an artist to watch has been as meteoric as it has been prolific. Her string of releases, which includes debut EP F.R.E.A.K.S, follow-up BLACK SAILOR MOON, and debut LP Deviancy, you hear the sound of an artist honing in on their identity and sound.
Her music is intrinsically linked to her performance, which you can trace back to her start performing at Le Cypher jam nights in Montreal. Whereas earlier releases seemed composed with the stage in mind, God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It marks a shift towards something more restrained and focused without abandoning any of her earlier bombast or aggression. With most songs clocking in at under three minutes, this release has a real sense of immediacy and urgency while still managing to weave a compelling larger story.
This work is a culmination of the themes explored on previous releases, especially the intersection between faith, identity and queerness. The way the album explores identity, through the self and through other people's perspectives, is as smooth as Backxwash's flow, here on full display. She shies away from any oversimplification for the sake of narrative, instead revelling in a duality that feels menacing without being alienating.
If you want an idea of the album's vibe, look no further than the opening title track: built around a bone-chilling Black Sabbath sample, it's a short but bold introduction to what is a sometimes challenging but cathartic listen.
Backxwash's lyricism, rhyme patterns and imagery are as sharp as ever; the wit and double meaning of lines like "I think it's pretty sick how I lost a family" cutting through anybody who's struggled with familial relations, especially queer kids. But it's the production that stands out as assured, deep and layered, especially the clever use of a smorgasbord of samples, ranging from gospel choirs and church sermons to broken glass and Patti Smith.
The album's two instrumental interludes, "Hell" and "Heaven," present two beautiful contrasts — the former a soft art rock song ripe for a Godspeed-type extended cut, the latter a dark and warped vocal loop that leads into the stunning album closer. "Redemption" is an arresting piece that centres on a melodic, scratched country loop and a vocal sample of a pastor offering a sermon about the emotional and physical power of forgiveness. It's a fitting end to Backxwash's opus. Her anger is palpable, but not unfettered or untamed, instead it's channelled carefully and forcefully through the project's 10 tracks.
Because ultimately, God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It is a tale of forgiveness — or, in Backxwash's words, a "version of forgiveness and things that I need to face in order to reach my version of that." This is Backxwash at her most raw and unfiltered, a feat in itself for an artist whose career is built on those principles, who's managed to internalize her influences, from vapourwave to Death Grips, in a way that feels natural and cohesive. All of her releases — four since 2018 for those of you counting — have been fully realized works, and now with God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It, Backxwash borders on the prodigious, showcasing an artist in full control of her craft and her story. (Grimalkin)