EP REVIEW: nascar aloe – ‘HEY ASSHOLE!’

Artwork for nascar aloe’s ‘HEY ASSHOLE!’ - a pair of soldiers holding rifles

Bit of a blast from the past, this one. Not necessarily nascar aloe himself (though he has been around in various capacities for a few years), but more the general practice of DIY rappers co-opting an alternative or rock aesthetic, and finding themselves ingratiated into those circles because of it. It’s not nearly as prevalent now, but there was a time where it felt as though every label or scene was scrambling to find a representative for themselves, despite the fact that none of them typically lasted very long or had the impact that said sponsors probably wanted.

Subsequently, the push around nascar aloe hasn’t been nearly as vigorous as it would have four or five years ago. His debut full-length AMERICAN WASTELAND was released last year, and though it did well on its own merits, the attention given by the same alternative outlets more than happy to jump on the bandwagon at its peak was negligible at best. That’s no fault of his, but it’s telling about how much interest in this particular style has dwindled down to barely a trickle today. It was easy to predict, sure—between overexposure, oversaturation and a glut of artists all lacking a style of their own—but it begs the question of what a project like HEY ASSHOLE! actually hopes to achieve in the current climate. Putting aside how deliberately lo-fi and scrappy nascar aloe in particular leans, it’s still a commercial release at the end of the day, borne from a style that was already flagging at its height of popularity.

That’s likely why HEY ASSHOLE! is trying to be something so different, sloughing off any emo-rap standards in favour of drilling way deeper into the DIY aesthetic. It’s easier to compare it to someone like XXXTENTACION but even more mangled, in fragments of noise-rap and punk built to emphasise how cannibalistic and blown-out they are. Add onto that a paltry 11-minute runtime, and there’s a definite stripe of artist you can place nascar aloe among—those who might have more cool ideas than good ones, but also whose complete disregard for anything conventionally musical isn’t that much of a hindrance for them.

To call it strictly ‘appealing’ is most likely incorrect, but the brazenness that’s surgically injected into every facet of this EP’s existence is something to behold nonetheless. The opening title track, while being the most conventionally tuneful thing here, does give some indication of what to expect, as the beaten-up guitar cracks and rips itself apart at the edges in a decidedly listener-unfriendly way. That’s followed by GAMEBOY, built on chiptune screeches and bass and vocal production that’s often blown out to the point of near-implosion. All the while, nascar aloe seethes and barks with little concern for timbre or vocal depth; it’s all about the aggression, down to the bones.

It’s certainly a valid creative stance, and once that has basis to work in the past. Hell, just look at XXXTENTACION himself, an artist who took this kind of red-raw SoundCloud-rap to the mainstream, and who would’ve undoubtedly been given an untouchable platform by the rock media at the time, had his mere existence not been mired in controversy. nascar aloe might’ve missed the boat to act as a surrogate, but that’s certainly the angle he’s going for. When HEY ASSHOLE! shows so little concern for traditional musicality—in punk, hip-hop or whatever else—it gives the impression of trying to fast-track a ‘DIY or die’ narrative right to the top. In theory, that seems reasonable; in practice, this isn’t really getting there on its own.

Sure, the changed climate is most definitely a factor, but one listen to this EP is enough to definitively claim that it shouldn’t be anywhere close to the top ends of the world stage. It’s slipshod to the point of barely being able to hold itself together, especially on a song like DRAG RACE that ends up falling over itself to exacerbate the roughness, where both it and OGRE find nascar aloe rapping so obviously offbeat because of it. The feel of a project concocted in a bedroom for exclusively the grottiest, grimiest dive shows is baked into this thing. The way it presents its unfettered aggro certainly gives off that impression, but it’s also what’s kind of cool about it. There’s not even a whiff of kowtowing to a greater musical power here; it’s entirely nascar aloe’s creative impetus, from presentation to production decisions to the runtime that’s, honestly, the ideal way to prevent something like this from becoming stale in a hurry. As far from a traditionally gratifying listen as it is, it is interesting to hear something like this pulled off in a way that’s so singleminded in its avoidance of industry pressure.

Maybe that’s a good thing; maybe it’s a sign that nascar aloe is dangerously close to boxing himself in and severing any potential for expansion. Who’s to say? When you never know which way that musical tides will turn, especially nowadays, those kinds of predictions really don’t amount to much on their own. It’s all about results, something that’s also conveniently difficult to speak on with HEY ASSHOLE!. On historical precedence alone, it’ll likely connect with as many as it’ll alienate, an inevitability with music that’s so hard to talk about as this is. Because, as you might notice, it’s been incredibly difficult to make a definitive judgement on this thing. The easiest thing to say is that it’s interestingly put-together, with pretty much everything else pertaining to its simple existence being up in the air. If nothing else, an artist that leaves as much room for discussion and debate as this is definitely a refreshing case.

For fans of: XXXTENTACION, BVDLVD, Lil Darkie

‘HEY ASSHOLE!’ by nascar aloe is released on 26th May on Epitaph Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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