Whether it is accomplished via sports, travel, or entertainment, humans thrive off of living vicariously through one another’s pursuits. In regards to music, hearing The Weeknd croon about drug-fueled sex or Rae Sremmurd trading bars about throwing stacks in the club creates a temporary sense of leading a lifestyle that’s generally unavailable to the common music enthusiast. The exact opposite process is found on Lil Dicky’s new record, Professional Rapper; rather than crafting an image driven by dramatized events, the Pennsylvania rapper spits about the mundane with the intention of causing the listener to laugh and ultimately relate.
Heavy-handed in its approach of Dicky explaining his rap method to a potential employer voiced by Snoop Dogg, the title-track is redundant as Dicky’s ability to even secure a Snoop feature confirms a wide audience already understands his shtick. The first of three interludes featuring Dicky’s parents that precedes the album opener provides a more natural way to visualize his normalcy; an approach that correlates with the album’s strong suits, as comedic events are best experienced rather than explained. Take ‘Oh Well,’ a melancholy production with occasionally fluttering percussion that finds Dicky laying out lines like, “I just can’t go a day with being alone/When I’m friends, though, why the fuck am I still on my phone?” Speaking on legitimate downsides of 21st century life amongst line’s joking about the issue (“Laying in the bed but I can’t rest/Till my gram checked, wish I cared less”) affords a nice balance of comedy and social awareness without either being forced front-and-center, especially when presented with an excellent verse of Jace from EarDrummers’ Two-9.
Of course, Dicky is best known for his outright humorous tracks such as ‘Lemme Freak’ and ‘Classic Male Pregame’ alongside their absurd music videos. Even without visuals, the songs still manage to entertain as the attention remains on the narratives being woven while also shifting toward the record’s capable production value and Dicky’s equally capable flow. Ranging from stoned-slow to hyper-quick, he is able to shift the tracks sonically at a pace that allows his story-centric humor to methodically progress with the music, whether it is atop a bass-driven, DJ Mustard- esque beat or snappy, minimalistic drums. Lyrically, a good portion of Dicky’s punch-lines deliver, especially on cuts such as ‘White Crime’ (“Looking like a nice guy ‘til I take your motherfucking Wi-Fi) and ‘Pillow Talking’ (“I’m five feet eleven/on Tinder I’m six feet”); on a broader scale, wide-range concepts for tracks like ‘$ave Dat Money’ also excel with a Lonely Island-esque ridiculousness to them that’s furthered by catchy hooks from the likes of Fetty Wap and T-Pain.
By the time the record’s staggering hour and a half runtime is complete, Dicky’s style does admittedly lose its appeal at times though. One has to believe Professional Rapper would have been better served at an hour at most, thus leaving many of the songs best heard outside of the album’s context after running through it once. Nonetheless, Dicky manages to entertain with unconventional plots and engaging sounds on a collection of tracks that will surely be well received by its millenial audience.