Bursting onto the scene with a raucous debut is Brooklyn’s own BANNI, an up and coming artist who is looking to make a statement with his latest project, “HILLSIDE.” At 32 minutes and 13 tracks long, it experiments with the fusion of popular sounds like Jersey Club, Drill, and Rage, while also introducing new spins to class tropes throughout each genre. It is incredibly chaotic, and equally boundary pushing as it begins to blur lines between genres.
The arrangement of the tracklist feels as though it's meant to depict a sonic journey, as you travel from genre to genre, with fusion tracks in between as you make your way through. The opening track, “READY,” is a Jersey Club beat with the kick of SDot Go, but the snares of Bandmanrill, helping craft a tasteful balance between the two sides of the drum spectrum. The energy carries right over into “NO CEELO,” another Jersey Club track with deep, overbearing kicks that demand your attention. BANNI’s voice is layered in a way that makes headphone listening an interesting experience that can definitely add to the track’s aesthetic. Midway, it switches things up with the same sliding drums you hear in every Drill track, injecting the track with a new energy it did not have prior. The Jersey Club rhythm comes back in the last third of the song, to send it off in a way that’s thematically sound. “MOVE,” continues the run of Jersey records in the tracklist, with guest artist Flex delivering the opening verse. He and Banni ride the beat seamlessly, with the bouncy beat informing their flows as they go along.
photo credit: @reggieslens
On the fourth track, “SAFE,” BANNI steps into his Melodic Trap bag, while also ensuring his own style is sprinkled all over. Aside from the leading piano melody, the track boasts some booming Drill kicks that you wouldn’t typically hear outside of one otherwise. BANNI’s ability to find new uses for commonly employed sounds is something to be mentioned as well, as innovation feels like it’s at the heart of what he’s doing here. Young Macuto is this track’s guest feature, and although his appearance is quick, it serves as a nice contrast to BANNI’s rough and harsh vocal delivery. “STONE COLD,” follows up with a more complex beat, where so many smaller sounds come together to form a sonically rich beat. BANNI and guest feature Vachi both float over their respective verses on a track that’s sure to get the party going. It presents a lot of interesting musical ideas, especially in the last few seconds with a memorable beat switch, but it doesn’t give itself enough time to explore said ideas at only 1 minute and 54 seconds long.
“BACK OUT,” relies heavily on its booming, rhythmic kicks that dominate the beat. With a dissonant, eerie synth accompanying it, the track’s atmosphere resembles that of an old-school video game. Its lyrical content doesn’t evoke that same imagery, though. Instead, BANNI recalls various moments where he’s been in the background, be it behind the scenes in the studio, or behind the latest partner in his life in bed. The double entendre displays some slick wordplay and is just one instance of the lyrical showcase you can hear throughout the project if you listen close enough. “PATIENCE,” begins with a string sample that loops throughout the entire track and serves as its lead melody. The old-time feel to the sound gives it some character, making it even more distinct compared to the drum rhythm the track boasts. “HOW MANY,” is a standout track I found myself replaying while still on my first run through of the album. Its own string samples form an earworm melody that, when combined with bellowing kicks and quick hi-hats, is sure to have you playing on repeat over and over as well. The samples allow the track to have a vintage modern feel, while BANNI talks about the repetitive nature of the grind, and how the faith in your work helps mold you.
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“GOT ME ANOTHER,” Begins to step into the territory of artists like Playboi Carti and Destroy Lonely. The melodies and their respective instruments are similar to what you’d hear on a track from those artists, but the drums help give it an almost ethereal lift. The track sounds almost like what I imagine a pink sky to, as that very kind of imagery is evoked when I’m listening to it. “F*CKBOUTNUN” exhibits exactly what it sounds like, as the journey into Rage begins to take full form. BANNI takes elements commonly used across these genres and tries his own hand at it. While that area of music isn’t exactly my favorite, I did enjoy some of the melodies that BANNI was vocalizing alongside the beats. On “PRESSURE,” though, BANNI blends both Rage and Drill, for another fusion track that will leave you wondering what’s possible. There’s three features on the track as well in the form of Flex, Joka Baggz, and G.T., but their appearances are so swift that if you aren’t paying attention, you just might blink and miss it. Regardless, the mixing of these two genres retains their respective energy, while also making use of their best qualities.
The title track. "HILLSIDE,” almost feels like the modern version of a shoutout track, except BANNI is shouting himself out for accomplishing so much and having come this far. There are moments where a rhyme scheme takes hold, but the song is mainly just line after line of declaration and encouragement toward the listener to find their own hustle, just like he did. As the title track, it almost gives off a nostalgic feel as the project begins to close. Appropriately, it feels like much more of a closing track than “99- REMIX,” the literal closing track of the album. On this last track, BANNI invites Kako Da Kakeman to join him as they talk about all the leveling up they’ve done since their birth years (1999 and 1996 respectively, as per Kako’s opening bar on his verse).
“HILLSIDE,” takes on the ambitious task of presenting so many different sonic concepts while also using a familiar means of doing so. Through the journey-like arrangement of the tracklist, it’s clear that BANNI intended for the listener to take that trip with him, as he teeters the lines between different genres and ultimately blends them into completely new animals. If you’re not already tuned in, what are you doing?
4/ 5 Stars
99 - REMIX
Least Favorite Tracks: