Canadian rap has never been in a better place, some of the genre’s best music is coming out of cities like Winnipeg. One of that city’s brightest stars, STMBLZ, has proven with the release of his new album Spirit Bomb that he’s a true lover of hip-hop and a genuine student of the art form. Packing seven songs, this project is one of the year’s most detailed, textured offerings yet. Stream it in full here.

King Kai’ is an insightful opener, seeing the rapper waste no time in detailing every success and failure in his career thus far. ‘Still remembering how to be dope again, but every day I find myself losing hope again’, he laments on the song. With the people around him changing thanks to his growing musical momentum, it seems like the rapper is learning to be wary of fairweather friends. STMBLZ pretty much raps for every second of this song, ensuring that every inch of the beat is coated in his lyrical venom.

The title track is a meatier song, packing a hulking, bassy production that brings attention to STMBLZ’s harsh tones and lurid brags. He actually reminds me of a young Vince Staples here, the songs are much less story-focused but the same intense passion can be heard in every syllable. ‘I’m trying to find peace in a world so cold, still sweating in my sleep’ is the takeaway lyric from this massive track. There’s a few melodic detours at this point, such as ‘Some Things Will Never Change‘, which employs trendier production and the project’s most recognisable hook.

Shade’ is a total curveball, it’s an extremely poppy track with some very raw, impassioned singing from the artist himself alongside a gorgeous vocal from a female guest singer. The production here is very interesting, it explores synth pop while remaining solidly rooted in trap stylistics of the Spirit Bomb’s mid-section. This song, and many others here, definitely benefit from the contributions of beatmaker FACE. His sonic versatility allows him to jump from something like the title track to the whimsical, lovesick ‘How Many Parties I Miss’, and STMBLZ’s ability to easily compete with such massive jumps only confirms that he’s one of the most well-rounded, adaptable artists that I’ve covered on this blog this year so far.

However, things are mixed up even further with the final two songs here. ‘Penniez’ is partly charming backpack rap and yet also a huge, undeniable pop anthem, while the reflective ‘Big Energy’ is a solid summary of the scattered nature of Spirit Bomb: a project that unifies itself in tone and theme yet manages to constantly surprise and astonish from a musical standpoint. There’s some key tracks here that I believe will prove invaluable to STMBLZ moving forward, should he chose to pursue any of the avenues presented here. Whether it’s the flashy, intense opening tracks or the sad, remorseful mid-section, he should have no difficulty honing in on and perfecting any element of his craft that he sees fit.

– Chris (@108mics)

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