Artist of the month: Tierra Whack: a Focus on her Album ‘Whack World’
May Artist of the month by WWSC Music Writer: Georgina Crowther.
Lockdown has been a tough time and even as we're coming to the end of it (I hope!), but I still feel we need to take a few musical moments to take ourselves away from the stresses that the pandemic has inflicted upon us or even to prepare us for the return to the 'norm'.
‘Whack World’ provides this escape, with Tierra Whack’s 15 minute long album that takes listeners through emotions in a fun, honest way. Most importantly the album provides an energy boost which we all need to get us to June 21st.
Tierra Whack’s debut album ’Whack World’ is unlike any other. Released in 2018, the fifteen minute ‘stunning spectacle of an audiovisual debut EP’ by the Philadelphia rapper, captures the surreal and playful nature of Whack’s lyricism with endless hooks within every minute masterpiece.
An instant favourite when I sat through my first listening - the life lessons of drinking water and eating vegetables to ‘lower cholesterol’ mixed with the more sombre messages of her ‘deadbeat dad’ leaving, extenuate Whack’s wittiness and ability to have you dancing to a sixty second tune about a dead dog.
When I first heard ‘Hungry Hippos’, arguably the most famous song on there, I thought my phone had broken or died when the song cut off after 1 minute. But when I checked, there on the screen, plain as day, my fears were confirmed. I felt cheated, but also intrigued as to why an artist would stop a banger after one minute.
An instant dive in to ‘Whack World’ commenced and I listened to the album around 4 times straight that day (which only took an hour). It was then that I felt I began to understand Whack’s purpose behind the short songs.
The ability to create catchy and, dare I say it, whacky songs that encompass the message she was trying to put across, was not only impressive but also surely much harder than creating a four minute song that had many more opportunities to convey certain particular emotions and moods to the listener.
I was intrigued and researched Whack’s motives behind the 1 minute song, thinking there must be some deeper meaning behind them. To put a middle finger up to the music industries that demand so much from creatives? To ensure that all her work was listened to or to just prove she can perhaps?
However, the actual reason was much more organic and made me fall in love with Whack even more. Whack told BillBoard the reason behind the sixty second cut off was due to her creative frustration.
Unable to piece the album together, Whacks sound engineer used Instagrams (at the time) sixty second video limit as inspiration for the album’s time limit. This concept forced Whack to use the full sixty seconds (and in some cases fifty-eight seconds) to its full advantage, using each minute to its full potential in each song. The ingenuity of this concept not only created an album that is full of clever, endless hooks but leaves the listener demanding more.
The ‘Whack World’ video accompaniment is filled with absurd and vibrant ideas which either mimics or mirror the lyrics. From the warm optimistic opening chords of ‘Black Nails’ where Whack states confidently she’ll sell if she's just herself, whilst hiding her face behind a hoodie to ‘Pretty Ugly' which shows Whack extenuating her features by a series of magnifying glasses but telling everyone she’s ‘doing great’.
The empowering ‘Fruit Salad’, speaks of self-care and ‘drinking water, eating fruit and takin’ care of my body’ portraying Whack working out in the gym, telling her viewers to ‘worry about themselves and worry about nobody’.
This part of the album feels like a reflection on society, detailing the emergence of health trends, self care and workouts, helping people to focus on themselves. This contrasts with the more sinister complexes these trends can bring (particularly from Instagram/TikTok) - the sense of hiding or diminishing your own successes mixed with the fear of people commenting on you and your features. It’s as if you’re constantly under a magnifying glass.
The album’s last two minutes are more sombre and eerie than the beginning. ‘Dr. Seuss’ shows off Whacks warm vocals over a slower beat progress in to an auto-tuned monotone voice that begins to speak about serious topics. Previous attempts to convey emotion over a serious topic was done over a child-like and playful backing beat.
’Pet Cemetery’ and ‘F*@k Off’ both consult grievances such as the passing of a dog and a potentially emotionally abusive relationship that reminds Whack of her ‘deadbeat dad’. Yet both tracks are upbeat and wildly catchy for such sombre topics, the controversially yet playfully named ‘Dr. Seuss’ is the first on ‘Whack World’ that allows emotional lyricism to be accompanied by a slower and more chilled beat.
The song ends with ‘...You ever laugh just to keep from crying/ think less about living and more about dying’, leading directly in to ‘Waze’ which is the end of ‘Whack World’. ‘Waze’ is potentially my favourite track on ‘Whack World’ as well as the slowest.
The ability to squeeze the determination and desperation of letting no one ‘take what she’s worked for’ with a simple, stripped down beat shows Tierra Whack’s eloquence and poetic ability to convey such raw emotion in 59 words. This ends ‘Whack World’ on a high with the chords similar to the first song ‘Black Nails’. It feels almost as if you’ve gone full circle in emotion and ended up back where you began.
Overall, Tierra Whack has managed to fill her album with raw honesty from a variety of different emotions, from grievances, insecurities and optimism - and this is all done in 15 minutes. ‘Whack World’ is not only a stroke of genius, but an album that can be listened to wherever and in whatever mood.
If you're sad, ‘Whack World’ will understand and cheer you up. If you’re happy, ‘Whack World’ will provide you with bops and songs to dance to.
If you’re wanting to feel empowered, ‘Whack World’ will certainly get you there. Being recognised as ‘Best New Music’ by Pitchfork, Tierra Whack is definitely one to watch. Remy Ma stated ‘I feel like she did something' sums Whack’s imaginative vision of ‘Whack World’ - creative, unusual and demands the listener to replay instantly.
For lockdown, this album portrays the flurry of emotions an individual might be feeling as well as providing a mental boost that will have the listener dancing around their bedroom floor. Whack has since gone on to release a myriad of spirited singles, including Dora, which mirrors Whack World's lively, playful voice.