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Album Review: Octavian - Endorphins


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Octavian has finally released the follow up to his acclaimed debut Spaceman, a mixtape which saw the rapper flexing his talents as a genre-bending trap magician.

Cover Art 'Endorphins' (2019)

Straight off the bat, Octavian throws a curveball, hitting listeners with a gospel-influenced instrumental and church choral refrain on album opener ‘Gangster Love’. The track clearly has some kind of premise but isn’t quite fleshed, with the end result being Octavian lazily crooning about a “shy girl” over a church beat.

The status quo is restored on ‘King Essie’, a celebratory trap banger. There are no frills at all in this track with standard trap drums, dumbed down lyrics, a killer catchy hook and a hype refrain where cash is the only concern.

An issue with Endorphins is the illogical tracklisting, going from the fairly neutral album opener to a banger, to a dour, trap-by-the-numbers track in ‘Molly Go Down’. This song seems uninspired. Octavian's delivery is boring, accompanied by sombre melodies that sound like something Nav could come up with, and that is really not a good thing.

He follows up this moment of bleakness with three exceptional hip-hop tracks in ‘Take It Easy’ (the lead single to the album), ‘Bet’, and ‘Feel It’, all of which feature notable guest artists. ‘Take It Easy’ flaunts a bouncy trap instrumental, which provides the platform for Octavian and Floridian guest rapper Smokepurpp to hit us with vibrant cadences, infectious vocal inflections and swaggy flows, rapping in traditional fashion about guns, gangs and girls.

The head-nodding ‘Bet’ follows up with another big feature in Tottenham’s finest, Skepta, as well as Michael Phantom. The track was initially released without the Skepta feature, but it makes sense sales-wise to use the Skepta version on the project, which is a shame since his aggressive, high energy verse seems contra to the more laid back appeal of the song. ‘Feel It’ sees a departure from Octavian’s trap formula, preferring a Drake-esque R&B groove, with the stock 808 bass replaced by a warm synth bassline. Octavian once again kills it on the chorus, and guest artist Theophilus London adds in a spicy little eight bar verse for some added seasoning, rounding off the highlight featured artist trifecta of the album.

‘Risking Our Lives’ sees Octavian doing his best Travis Scott interpretation. A drug anthem with a trap beat, off the wall vocal effects, heavy autotune on the main verses, and a euphoric beat switch, bearing all of Travis’ hallmarks. What this track shows that others on this album don’t is its completion as a concept; it seems far more polished than nearly every other song on the album, where concepts seem to lack depth, not given the detail that one expects from Octavian.

‘No Weakness’ is a pointless track, a waste of three minutes with an excruciatingly long outro. There is no redeeming quality to the relationship-based track, it really is a sad example of mindlessly drab trap. ‘World’ is lyrically just as dull and as unnecessarily long, but at least the lead melody and countermelodies are bright and fun.

‘Walking Alone’ sees a return to form, setting up a solid closing three songs. Divided into two halves, the first half shines with an energetic, throwback garage sound and the second is his take on singer-songwriter music with a simplistic electric guitar providing the backing for a heavily autotuned Octavian to awkwardly pour his heart out over a girl. The track's second half really lets down the stellar opening and probably should have been cut from the album given how strange it feels within context.

The energy is quickly picked back up on ‘My Head’ with Octavian channelling his inner heavy metal lead vocalist on the hook, as he rages, "Get the f*ck out of my head!" at his inner demons. Again, the placement of this intense track on the project is jarring. However, as a standalone song, it does have a clear, afflicted, concept.

Album closer ‘Lit’ is the project's third US-UK collab that sees him linking up with Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg. Octavian delivers once again with a slick hook, but the star of the show is hands down Ferg, switching up his typical aggressive delivery for a surprising, softer, more melodic approach to harmonise with the track’s sweet trap instrumental, with some of his vocal inflections really surprising his fans.

Overall, the depth in instrumentation on Spaceman is not quite heard on Endorphins but Octavian’s melodic game has shown marked improvement since his debut. His willingness to experiment with strange sounds is not lost on this project, however that lack of finality with some of these songs as to their conceptual purpose, in tandem with the awkward sequencing, results in a potentially great project being merely a solid one that fails to surpass his debut.

Endorphins is out now on Black Butter Records.

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