The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Trippie Redd’s Life’s A Trip came out on Friday (August 10) amidst the hype for Nicki Minaj’s fourth studio album Queen that released the same day. Of the two, Trippie’s album is much more emotional, adventurous and, if we’re being frank, rapped better. There’s a lot to unpack about Life’s A Trip that makes it his best album, by far. For this review of the album, I’ve decided to divide it into five distinct takeaways that enable the reader to understand exactly what makes it so good, even with a glaring weakness that should be addressed immediately.

Trippie Redd is a good—no, great rapper

The songs that we remember Trippie Redd for are usually comprised of his wounded whimper that crescendos with each passing second before trailing into the air. That snivel can be extended to a large chunk of his music as his songs are typically four-minute blasts of a certain kind of emo whine that’s spiritually similar to 2016-present Lil Uzi Vert, yet of its own ilk. There’s a good amount of that here on Life’s A Trip, which literally opens with this damaged singing and makes it immediately apparent that what we’re getting will be predominantly more of the same.

When the album breaks form, that’s when things get a little interesting. Trippie delves into his rapper bag and delivers some punchy, energetic raps unlike anything we’ve heard from him recently. “Missing My Idols” is the full version of the fiery snippet that he released a couple of months ago, featuring a plethora of bars that trick you into submission. “Oomp’s Revenge” channels a similar feel with some serious attention to lyrical detail.

Emo rap is a difficult space to navigate

In the last few years, emotional rap has become one of the new-age hip hop movement’s driving corners. Kid Cudi’s spacey hymns in the late aughts may have laid the groundwork for the most current iteration of the movement, but modern-day, guitar-driven, melodic raps seem to exist in the same sonic vacuum. Guitars can be traded out for other near-rock, Marilyn Manson-inspired instruments, but the vocal inflections and very blueprint that much of the music comes from is a little harder to replicate. This is why much of modern emo-rap sounds similar; from Lil Uzi to Juice WRLD, the whining moans are a constant feature across artists.

Trippie Redd manages to pump some fresh air into the convention with his intrepid raps, but it seldom happens. When he sings about love, heartbreak, and pain, we’re reminded of just how small emo rap really is. The elongated “aaaaaa” sound is a spiritual relative of Juice WRLD’s own whimpering yell on “Lucid Dreams.” His half-singing/half-rapping dance on “Gore” is instantly reminiscent of Lil Peep’s growl on “The Bright Side.” Trippie may have been relevant before either of the aforementioned artists, but that’s just the thing; there’s preciously little to the emo rap scene that hasn’t been covered yet. Although it has been proven to reside upon furtile commercial ground, it’s proving to be very hard to navigate creatively.

Having only three features enables Trippie to experiment in his sandbox

Since Trippie’s a tad more musically diverse than his peers, his decision to include only three features plays out perfectly. Young Thug, Reese La Flare, and Travis Scott (not including Diplo, of course) bring different shades of cockiness to the album that make Trippie seem humble in comparison—not the kind of lyrical cockiness that Trippie already exudes copious amounts of, but musical audacity. Thug’s crooning is garish, but Travis Scott’s excessive use of Auto-Tune juxtaposes with Trippie’s wonderfully stripped voice, making for the latter’s vocals to stand pristine on “Dark Knight Dummo.”

The lack of features allows Trippie to make the most use of his capabilities. His rapping is good, singing even better, but the mix is where it ultimately stands out. While it may sound sonically similar to some of his new-age rap peers, it transcends them in its polish. Drake’s not crazy for wanting Trippie for “God’s Plan.” It makes sense now.

The glum atmosphere from Love Scars 2 returns

If there’s one thing about Life’s A Trip, it’s that the production never gets as vibrant as the album’s cover would make it appear. Life’s A Trip is a morbid work of art, concerned with the feelings of emptiness and despair post-breakup along with the kinds of heartbreak outside of the normal spectrum. There are furtive looks at more common kinds of swag rap in certain points, like Trippie wishes to transcend the sub-genre he’s been known to frequent, but they are only fleeting. It’s always only a song away for Trippie to get deeper and darker, like gloom is the mood that dominates his existence. “How You Feel” is one of the rare glimpses of hope that pokes through the despondent surface, but save for that, you’ll want to keep a handkerchief nearby.

When straying from inward emotion, thematic attempts are weak

“Oomp’s Revenge” starts with a self-aware quip. “Somehow, my songs always apply to my real life, right now,” he says, in what sounds like a haze of blunt smoke. He then throws up bunches of meaningless bars-but-not-really bars, the kind that’ll sound good in the car until you dissect what they mean. Then, towards the end of the verse, he slaps in the fact that the song is dedicated to his late older brother, a figure that inspired Trippie to rap in the first place. If you step back and then realize that the soulful production probably hinted at something deeper, you’ll still be confused by the song’s content.

It seems that Trippie didn’t want to fully commit to the song’s introspective nature. His plethora of raps don’t really mean anything, so when trying to bundle them together under the guise of his late brother’s influence, they fall apart. The song certainly sounds good though; it’s just when analyzing it from a strictly critical perspective that its thematic weight nearly doesn’t exist.

“Missing My Idols” exists in a similar vacuum. The title, and equally soulful production, would suggest a heartfelt look at some inspiring figures in his life, but that’s not what we get. The name holds no merit. Trippie checks in line after line of filler rap for the sake of the flow so that, when it ends, your ears are pleased, but your mind wants more. Is it a coincidence that both songs are rapped instead of sung?

Life’s A Trip is a dark, emotional album that continues the thematic narrative of Love Scars 2 while also doubling down on Trippie’s emo strengths and exposing some lyrical weaknesses. His singing skills may have gained him the recognition of new-age emo rap culture, but he’s proven himself to be one of the best flowing rappers in his age group. All he needs to do now is transition some of that angst evident in his inward, emotional cuts to the thematic ideas in his raps and we’ll see him at his best. If Trippie figures out the right way to navigate the emo rap atmosphere while, at the same time, continuing to evolve as a lyricist, his ability to successfully merge both cultures will transform his standing, and rap music itself.

More by Trey Alston: