Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Sheck Wes – Mo Bamba

Meeting our CAPITAL LETTERS quota for the month…


Maxwell Cavaseno: Praise in the media for Sheck Wes’ “Mo Bamba” typically revolves around the surprise rise of a viral sensation from grassroots origins, like the kid ain’t signed by Travis Scott. What makes this irritating is that it ignores just how effective it is, despite being an anomaly amid the SoundCloud rap scene it gets tacked with. 16yrold & Take A Daytrip’s production is perfect in its seemingly minimal but layered catchiness, with ugly basslines and endless hypnotic loops firing off. Meanwhile, Sheck’s droning delivery bores and sweeps over the track in such an easily repetitive *beat drop and flow switch occurs* SHIT! LISTEN TO THAT RECORD! THE SHIT BANGS, SLAPS, WHATEVER YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT IT. THE DAMN BEAT SOUNDING LIKE THE COLDEST ICE-CREAM MAN MELODY OUT THERE. IT’S A HIT!!!

Taylor Alatorre: This… goes “hard,” I guess? It fulfills the minimum requirements for a song to qualify as going hard, which is itself the minimum requirement for a viral rap hit in 2018. Sheck Wes exists near the absolute midpoint of the genre’s current formation, sounding a bit like Keef, a bit like Makonnen, and a bit like someone who missed the A$AP Mob cut. He wisely interrupts the Gregorian chant-style flow halfway through in order to borrow some of Bone Crusher’s “Never Scared” energy, but rousing ad-libs are no substitute for dynamic writing.

Crystal Leww: I saw Sheck Wes at the beginning of the summer when he played MoMA PS1’s Warmup series. He played “Mo Bamba” three times. It went off every single time. I’ve since heard “Mo Bamba” on what feels like every single dance floor that was tangentially hip-hop related, and honestly, it goes off every time! I’m still astounded that “Mo Bamba” is all build with no cathartic release, but I can’t fight with the energy that this brings to a room.

Julian Axelrod: Daytrip and 16yrold’s sinister ice cream truck beat is a work of genius, and its booming creep turns Sheck Wes’s wails into the anguished cries of a horror movie villain. His voice is fascinating — a full-body moan that practically doubles over on itself — but beyond his mid-song rap tantrum, I don’t really get a sense of what Sheck Wes brings to the table. “Mo Bamba” feels like the shot of Jason Voorhees rising from the lake at the end of Friday the 13th: an unsettling, tantalizing promise of the horrors yet to come.

Jonathan Bradley: Sheck Wes moans sickeningly over murky music-box production; he sounds like a zombie Waka Flocka Flame reanimated for the mumble rap age. The unpleasant lurches through which he leads his voice are transfixing, defying the regulated bounds of meter; check how he forces a line break into “you fuck a/…round-and-get poled” as if he had never heard the words he was saying until the moment they left his mouth. Cracking and lowing, his pronunciation ultimately falters until the beat gets away from him entirely. Then, with a run of exhortative expletives (“Fuck! Shit! Bitch! Huh!”) he revitalizes himself with new assurance and new precision, casting the preceding distemper in retrospect as ghoulish theater, a masquerade of malady. It’s craft that tears apart the basic elements of rap, not to reconstruct it, but to abandon it as waste.

Ashley John: “Mo Bamba” is a masterpiece of negative space. Sheck Wes gives the track the room to unfurl, to expand and contract without adhering to a strict beat or structure. The second “bamba” is what really kills me. It sounds like Sheck Wes spitting a sour taste from his mouth, then followed by a bratty string of “fuck, shit, bitch!” — an artful encapsulation of the blunt boredom of young angst, feeling like you know everything but where your next thought is going to bring you. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: While its producers pointed to their music theory backing to defend “Mo Bamba” and its lurching carousel of a beat to certain EDM producers, the song itself relies more on Sheck Wes’ charisma and sheer force of will than Take A Daytrip’s admittedly well-crafted production. Unfortunately, Sheck spends the first half stuck in a dully menacing mood, sapping the track’s energy until a sudden halt in the music lets him shift into a higher state. From that point on, “Mo Bamba” is an instant pop classic, Sheck stomping around the track with absolute, energized control. It’s just a shame that the track muddles its way there.

Tobi Tella: I don’t care what anyone else says: this is simultaneously incredibly stupid and incredibly amazing. This feels much more organic than the millions of other lazy SoundCloud rap songs floating around the top 50, and also gave me “fuck, shit, bitch!”, so I’m firmly supporting this.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: There’s more power in a single Sheck Wes “BITCH!” than in all of 6ix9ine’s ugly, incessant howling. Between these two NYC natives, it’s Sheck Wes’s minimal approach to abrasion that has longevity; his songs linger in my brain far beyond any in-the-moment thrill. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, but in the case of sleeper hit “Mo Bamba,” it absolutely does. The post-Chief Keef moaning pressure cooks the tension until popping off with a “FUCK! SHIT! BITCH!” to announce his new flow. This sequence isn’t significantly different from the rest of the song, but it feels invigorating because of how well Sheck Wes commands attention. Recorded in a single take with some ad-libs thrown in after, “Mo Bamba” makes a case that less can be a whole lot more. Or more precisely, MMMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRREEE.

Reader average: [6.33] (9 votes)

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3 Responses to “Sheck Wes – Mo Bamba”

  1. this is the gladdest i’ve ever been to be on the low end of scores

  2. Yeah I’m usually pretty generous with my scoring, but I just don’t hear much that separates this from the pack. It is fascinating, though, to see which obscure SoundCloud tracks become hits and which remain obscure – to me this shows that most of the time it’s pure randomness.

  3. missed blurbing this but this is the best song of the year and the easiest [10] I would have ever given out