BukuSteez x Topper Atwood- “Assume the Worst” REVIEW

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As they say, the hustle continues, and BukuSteez just dropped off his second EP in a few months, and goddamn it I am impressed. Pairing up with Nashville producer Topper Atwood, who we covered earlier this month, Buku unleashed a six track project displaying a tremendous amount of artistic growth since the previous tape that came a relatively short time ago.

I am a big fan of the duo album. I think it breeds a fantastic amount of chemistry, and the producer will consistently pull the best work out of the rapper they are working alongside for an extended period. Key and Kenny Beats, Action Bronson and Party Supplies, Metro Boomin’ and 21 Savage, the list of great duo tapes goes on and on, and although BukuSteez and Topper lack the notoriety of this list, musically, this tape rivals all aforementioned. 

Melodically, Buku stays the course with a very similar flow seen on “Outsider,” but he is beginning to master it. His style has drastically changed since his days in the now defunct Nashville rap collective “BZRK,” and his melodies feel second nature at this point. To me, many rappers who attempt this style sound forced, or unnatural, but BukuSteez appears to feel quite at home in this cadence.

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The chemistry Atwood and BukuSteez built on Outsider was carried over to this tape, as Buku was easily able to attack the beats provided, and fluidly change flows as the beat naturally ebbed and flowed. Now, I have spoken much on how incredible Buku was this project, but Topper Atwood needs a hell of a lot of credit. His work never fails to impress me, and this tape is no different. The instrumentals were almost tailor-made to Buku’s style, and the project has a very organic feel to it. Nothing was forced, nothing was rushed, and nothing was half-assed.

Since the EP featured only six tracks, we only got to hear two features on the project, but you know what they say, quality over quantity. Up first was Nessly, who bodied his opportunity, and was a fantastic selection. His flow and Topper’s track went together like fine wine and cheese. Up next to accompany Buku was Lil Bruh Davis, an electric artist from Nashville who hasn’t received near the accolades he deserved. He paired up with Buku on the previous EP and did not disappoint. This feature was something very special. Rather than use the same melodic, trancey flow Buku’s utilizes, LBD just spit straight fuckin’ gas. You could feel the street and the hustle emanate from his lungs with every word. It reminded me very much of Tree’s feature on “Street Knowledge,” ironically off of a duo album between BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah.

Enough stylistic talk. Two main themes permeate throughout the project, as Buku deals with his relationship with his girlfriend, and the strain drugs (particularly opioids) placed on their bond. Percocets seem to be the Xanax of 2018, and Buku offers up a firsthand look at how destructive these little pills are. The whole tape shows how his mother and girlfriend are both growing distant and scared as the pill grabs tighter. No designer clothes, lean, or percs have satisfied BukuSteez, and much of this album is an ode to his girlfriend who has held him down through his whole come up. “Got My Back” was a particularly emotional song, that I highly recommend listening to, if you listen to nothing else, and was Buku’s most heartfelt song since his BZRK days.

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The tape felt like almost like a love song at first, but the more I listened I realized my first impression was wrong. It is much less a love song, but rather Buku caught in a sick love song, torn between drugs and what he realizes he needs, but doesn’t always choose. The drugs have a strong hold on him throughout the first part of the tape, but as the songs continue he begins to realize the err in his ways, and starts to change for the better. Balancing the trap and a healthy use of drugs is a difficult balancing act, and throwing love in there makes things nearly impossible. This project is as much an analysis of this than anything else.

The final track, and lead single of the project, “Lyfestyle,” was a particular masterpiece. This was Buku’s cleverest lyrically, and the best beat out of Nashville this year. If any song really blows up off the tape it will be that one.

It will be very hard for any other Nashville artist to top this tape this summer. The bar has been set very high.

Stream “Assume the Worst” here:

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