Words by Keane Fletcher
Wolves have always occupied a unique place in our culture. Fascinating and fierce, primal and symbolic, the image of the wolf has come to represent so many things to us, most of them to do with the forbidden side of ourselves, the part we might be too afraid (or too inhibited) to bring into the light. This sense of duality, this reckoning with the shadow self, is the thread that binds Perth-based rapper W7lf’s debut album ‘Along Came a W_lf’ together, a darkly atmospheric, yet tongue-in-cheek examination of identity, philosophy, and ambition that isn’t afraid to wear its literary references on its sleeve.
Mixed and engineered primarily at Shake Down Studios in Warwick, Western Australia, ‘Along Came a W_lf’ is a curious beast of an album. Unashamedly influenced by fantasy literature and gamer-culture, it blends 90’s low-fi aesthetics with heady existentialist lyrics to create a unique sonic experience. Indeed, you don’t necessarily expect a rap song to open with a quote from a Polish fantasy writer, but that’s exactly what happens on ‘Killing Monsters’, a mid-tempo meditation on overcoming adversity and proving haters wrong. Similarly, ‘Controller’ sees W7lf wearing his nerd-dom like a badge of honour, rapping:
‘Have you ever seen a mothaf**ka that can rap like me/ Compared to so called Gs/ A nerd who brought this heat/ Pass the controller then please’
It’s an interesting approach to the genre, and one that really props up the first half of the album by allowing W7lf’s intelligent lyrics to shine. This isn’t to say the back half of the album isn’t up to the same standard; indeed, some of the best production is reserved for some of the later tracks (‘Bring It Back’ is especially good, wonderfully textured and bristling with nostalgic charm). However, a little of the momentum is lost with the final two songs, ‘Faded’ and ‘Give It Up’, the latter of which is basically an extended outro thanking contributors. It’s a nice touch, but one that seems to jar with the kind of dark existentialism that colours the album’s most successful tracks. Though perhaps this is the point; duality rearing its ugly head again.
That being said, the ‘Along Came a W_lf’ is immensely listenable, due in no small part to its inventive writing and excellent production values. Flying the flag for nerds everywhere, W7lf should be commended for his highly unique approach, and I for one can’t wait to see what he gets up to next.
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!