Review Summary: Who owns an artist’s work?
Damso is the most successful Belgian rapper, like, ever.
Wait, let's be even bolder.
Damso can soon qualify for entering Belgium's musical pantheon. The country never truly enjoyed any kind of worldwide musical exposure, apart from Jacques Brel, Amenra, and Adolphe Sax - if that name doesn't ring a bell, he's the one dude who invented the saxophone. Pretty rad, huh? Mainstream-wise, it's through hip hop that Belgium is shining nowadays. Following the 2010s French Hip Hop New Wave (a term I just coined), Belgian rappers started gaining some traction as the younger spectrum of the population made their songs the sound of their youth.
Of all the flat country people dropping bars, William Kalubi aka Damso resonated the most with the Belgian population with his first three projects, crossing the bar of one million copies sold. His success came from the seemingly paradoxical manner in which he both abhors and embraces lust with songs that tackle sexual matters in the crudest possible ways. It's not all libido though, as he also spent time explaining how his behavior destroyed his relationships and alienated himself from the people he loves. Add a strong melodic knack to the recipe as well as the capability to create infectious bangers, and you get a pretty close representation of Damso's music.
At least that was the case before 2018.
With 2018's Lithopédion
, Damso started to decrease the number of pure trap bangers, writing softer-sounding songs that encapsulated his love for the likes of Agnes Obel and French pop artist Mylène Farmer. Lithopédion
reached #1 in Belgium, France, and French-speaking Switzerland, despite many criticizing its new aesthetic, judging the album too unbalanced and not knowing how to sequence rap bars and sung lullabies. The same scenario is happening right now with QALF
. Hordes of fans are tearing the album apart as I am writing this, lamenting the lack of bars and bangers, also tackling the record for how directionless it sounds. The most striking and interesting point, however, is how much people care. Many albums are analyzed and criticized, yet Damso attained such an important place within the French-speaking musical environment that literally everybody deeply wants to enjoy the record. Everybody is currently listening to QALF
, and everybody is expected to have an opinion on it.
Such strong reactions come from the fact that Damso has always rapped about his deep feelings, so that us listeners think we know
the man. We appropriated his body of work, the rapper being Belgium's musical representative. As a people, we owe it to ourselves to support our champion, thus creating listeners’ overreaction. Theories are submerging social media, separating the population in two sides: those who are trying to find reasons to love the album, and those claiming Damso has lost his edge. These two sides however agree on one aspect: they both feel like the rapper owes them an amazing record because they have invested time and money in him.
So, who’s right? As usual, the answer is to be found at the confluence of the extremes’ opinions. Damso does innovate in his beat choices, “911” coming straight from the Macintosh Plus’ canvas, and “Coeur en miettes” accentuating the rapper’s love for indie pop. However, the majority of the beats sound like nothing more than generic trap semi-bangers, “D’ja roulé” epitomizing the record’s faults with its uninspired flow and already-heard-a-million-times beat. This is where lies the album’s main criticism: it falls flat, and contains too many forgettable tunes. While Damso’s strength always was to create memorable songs, very few tracks here manage to fully engage the listener. The album ultimately falls into that
category of albums which sees some of its tracks being put on playlists, but won’t get many subsequent listens in and of itself.
Notwithstanding these considerations, one thing is certain: people care, and QALF
is the most talked-about musical subject in Belgium. What's more to ask?