$oel | 16sixteen | Self-Released

Local Review: $oel – 16sixteen

Local Music Reviews


Street: 03.16
$oel = Lil Keed + Rich Homie Quan

$oel is an open book. The rapper’s new album 16sixteen has many sides, but all of them are consistently unburdened with weighty metaphor; it says exactly what it means at all times. What you see is what you get. 

I genuinely never thought I would compare an artist in this particular lane to the Dwarves, one of my favorite punk bands of all time, yet they were the reference point I kept on returning to. The big similarities are twofold. First, both are fundamentally hedonistic. They like violence and sex and drugs and guns because they are exciting and feel good. $oel aims to entertain through tales of excess and, possibly, depravity. Second, both stick to the basics. The Dwarves do not (on their good albums) muck up their sound with needless production flourishes, and neither does $oel attempt to abandon the simple formula he’s hit upon here. While I can’t say that 16sixteen reaches the heights of albums like Sugarfix for me personally, this spartan, no-frills approach proved an unexpected inroad into appreciating an album from a genre of music I normally don’t give much time.

Musically, 16sixteen boils down to a series of spare 808 beats and minimalist, mostly minor-key synth grooves. Samples are few and far between, other instruments rarely intrude on the sparse mix and the patterns only slightly shift during choruses and bridges. The lyrics follow suit: they’re about street life, being good with women and killing those who cross you. Do you want any detailed stories or punchlines, any clever wordplay? No time for that. We gotta cut right to the chase. In theory, this could be incredibly dull, but in practice all it really is … is pure. There’s a lack of pretension in the refusal to include anything here that might entice those who aren’t already dyed-in-the-wool trap fans. Even when the music ends up a bit forgettable, the fact that it remains so untainted by more mainstream sensibilities is still refreshing, especially in a market saturated with more polished versions of a similar sound.

There are a few things that might hold 16sixteen back for even the folks receptive to its vibe. $oel has a unique voice, but his slightly nasal quality can get a bit grating at points (especially when he’s trying to carry a clearer melody), and this problem is exacerbated by the lack of features across the album. 16sixteen also isn’t afraid to get angsty and aggressive, and anyone who likes their tales of street violence on the less brooding side might find their patience tested by songs like “Old Days Intro Track” and “Ghost.” The album shines brightest as an uncompromising, straight-ahead take on melodic trap and hip-hop, with songs like “Off,” “Alright” and “Dubz” capturing a debauched mania I can really get behind. It’s a debut with a lot of potential, leaving me eager for $oel to refine his already-distinct sound even further. Nic Renshaw

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