by PumpBoffBag CONTRIBUTOR (119 Reviews)
March 3rd, 2023 | 3 replies

Release Date: 10/31/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A bad trip

During the mid-2010s, popular rap seemed to coast by on the emo-inflected, minimalist scrapings of the online sound that had become so popular thanks to the mumble rap craze, before mercifully disappearing as quickly as it materialised. After this had petered out, there was a curious resurgence of a more enthusiastic iteration of the style, the xans and lean traded for amphetamines and coffee. Picking up as 'soundcloud rap' as a movement seemed to be starting to tail off, the content was thematically similar, but with a heightened aggression and a more mature tone, both in musicality and conceit. Ashanti Mutinta, better known as Backxwash, represents a more traditional variant of the sound in a modern climate- a focus that pairs more typical, strung-out flows and rhymes against bizarre, industrial-infused landscapes that contort and morph with a heady, murky aesthetic. The style buries its toes in a multitude of influences, with hip-hop, gothic and emo being the most prominent, but simultaneously tars them with a novel 'evil' vibe that does occasionally come off as cliché, but still manages to partner with the sound and overtones to make the release feel cohesive and consistently off-kilter. HIS HAPPINESS SHALL COME FIRST EVEN THOUGH WE ARE SUFFERING is the third and final entry into a loose trilogy by Backxwash, and although it demonstrates much of the same stylistics as its predecessors, it is an even harder-hitting experience, with demented production and a stark focus on religious themes and motifs.

Almost all of the tracks on the release have a heavy industrial feel to them, and the beats (which are usually simple, plodding percussive pathways), serve as background landscapes for Mutinta's rapping style. Her flow is drawn-out and lackadaisical, yet also frenzied and urgent when the atmosphere demands. The thumping chorus of VIBANDA and the assertive, schizophrenic remonstrations of MUZUNGU exemplify this well, showcasing both component parts of the technique with gleeful finesse. Set against the viciously-stitched collage of the main musical content, the rhymes find their own flows, occasionally independent from the actual din of the instrumentation, and keep pace alongside them as a distinct entity. JUJU is a good example of this, utilising looped sound effects of a raucous crowd as the main musical texture, which, when paired with the religious themes, distorted keys and orchestral refrains later in the track, create a truly warped, unhinged experience that is somehow very freeform in style but controlled in execution. There is a vague air of recycling the core sound as the album progresses, but there are flourishes aplenty of understated innovation to keep things from becoming too familiar. Sadistik's feature on ZIGOLO encapsulates this beautifully, lending a sense of organic development to the proceedings and offering a slice of his tongue-twisting rapping ability that complements both the beat and Mutinta's own style perfectly.

The release throughout is kept afloat by the more risky creative choices, as they bolster what may otherwise have been a somewhat monotonous endeavour. The heavy industrial strains of most of the cuts push Mutinta's bars back a tad within the mix, creating a singular musical entity that can occasionally feel just a little bland in its bleakness. Even so, choices such as the inspired inclusion of Mozart's 'Confustasis and Lacrymosa' on VIBANDA feed into the album's desolation with an appropriate sense of woe, and its utilisation does not feel garish in the slightest. The rioting crowd of 'JUJU' and the chaotic clapping motif of 'MULUNGU' are further demonstrations of this, capitalising on the sense of disturbed musicality and taking warranted risks that pay off in dramatic ways. The mildly psychedelic 'KUMOTO', with its amelodic, bizarre chorus and spacier vibe is, in many ways, the apex of the album's signature sound- it feels hysteric, manic; a manifestation of the evil lurking below the surface of the record. Such moments of clarity pepper the release like sonic apparitions, revealing themselves at times both appropriate and inappropriate, but this once again plays into the album's surreal, machiavellian bent. Mutinta leans into her Zambian heritage on occasion, notably on tracks like NFWITI, and into a jazz influence on closer MUKAZI. Yet, these moments are still extremely off-kilter, with the latter having an almost sublime sense of leering bleakness despite its quintessentially upbeat tone. It's a very delicate display of pain and inner turmoil seen through a lens of gloomy nihilism.

The washed-out, distorted tone on display here is married with a incisive topical component in the lyrics, which weaves together a troubled meditation on existential preoccupations, scathing social critiques, and bitter religious invocations. These elements are all shot through with a witchy bile that grasps for that demonic, occult aesthetic that has been playing so popularly with the cool kids in times of late. It's not a million miles away from previous Backxwash efforts and on occasion actually surpasses them in quality thanks to a slightly more believable sense of virulent assuredness in the content. Unfortunately though, whether through oversaturation or desensitisation, the horrorcore leanings do quite frequently venture into eye-rolling territory. Thankfully, the creative musical content and general artistic display is clearly driven by instinct, and so from a purely aural perspective, the songs here are entertainingly dark. As far as the rhymes and flows themselves are concerned, they are a tad simplistic, but still well-constructed and completely suitable for the tone. As an overall experience, His Happiness Shall Come... is an exhausting, uncompromising slice of experimental hip-hop. Hitting sickening highs and depressive lows, sometimes in the same song, the sound is consistently violent and cacophonous; twisted in a lurid and forceful way. It is an expression of agitation mirrored by external trauma, both personal and historic, and the clear thought and integrity imbued into the project's heart is plain to see, amongst all the corruptive devilry.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2023


Album Rating: 3.5

3.4 for me. TLDR: Occasionally underwhelming but when it hits it's an atmospheric and nightmarish industrial rap record and a decent closer to the trilogy

March 4th 2023


Album Rating: 5.0

Incredibly glad this got a review! My favorite project of hers

March 4th 2023


Album Rating: 4.5

same here. She just gets better and better honestly.

That track with Pupil Slicer is fucking fire

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