The Backend Child

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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas

NoCap's 2018 debut mixtape Neighborhood Hero established the core elements of his style; huge beats, catchy choruses heavy on Auto-Tuned crooning and lyrics that wove together the desperation of street life, tireless ambition, and hints of humor. Just a year after that strong effort, The Backend Child expands on what NoCap began with Neighborhood Hero, offering more fully formed songs and a deeper dive into emotionally bare storytelling. The project begins with "Ghetto Angels," a single that collected millions of plays in the months before the release of the mixtape. The impassioned song deals with friends and family the rapper has lost to gun violence, its slickly produced beat using an ethereal vocal sample to help convey the loss central to the song. NoCap's vocals here begin smooth and reflective but soon grow into tormented howls. This song marks the emotional peak of the album, but much of The Backend Child follows a similar approach in terms of production and flow. The out-of-the-box acoustic guitar hook on "Dead Faces" helps make the lyrically scattered song featuring longtime NoCap collaborator Rylo Rodriguez stand out. The rappers trade bars about lost friends and death before abruptly jumping into disconnected punchlines like 'I was dead broke, I seen Ben Franklin in the casket/The world was sleepin' on me, it was Earth under my mattress.' NoCap's freestyle lyrics are punched in line by line in the studio, which might account for the quick shifts in lyrical content on some songs. The heavy use of Auto-Tune and stories of struggle bring to mind NoCap's contemporary Quando Rondo, and the two collaborate on "New Ones," a track that already appeared on the Quando Rondo mixtape From the Neighborhood to the Stage. The song is just one of many where NoCap's lyrics turn to dry humor. Lines like "In my zone, they tote automatics/I'ma tear Burnsville down and I'ma name my projects AutoZone" are subtle, but the wordplay throughout The Backend Child is deceptively clever, recalling the subliminal genius of Lil Wayne in his prime. The album tends to repeat itself after a while, but there’s enough high-quality material to point toward even better and more wide-reaching work from NoCap in releases yet to come.

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