Mysterious sludge rap entity Lil Ugly Mane, who has disappeared into a fog of obscurity and blunt smoke numerous times, has once again emerged from the swamp with his new two-track single, "PORCELAIN SLIGHTLY/INTO A LIFE." Ugly Mane’s proclivity towards oblique release titles continues, joining the pantheons alongside gems like volume 1: flick your tongue against your teeth and describe the present. and SLEEP UNTIL IT HURTS YOU. Over the years, some of his vast and influential catalogue could fall into the “challenging listen” category, but he has never seen it as his job to tuck the listener in and sing them to sleep. His role has always been more to plant a horrifying idea in the listener to lie dormant for years, ready to spread its malignant seed when the host is at their most vulnerable.
While Lil Ugly Mane has been known to be wildly unpredictable, sometimes the wild too can become predictable, and the calm can become the unforeseen. This is certainly the case for the first song, “porcelain slightly”, which sees Ugly Mane wash himself clean in the tepid waters of indie college-rock. A jangly, high-end riff and crunching hip-hop drums create an emotional wave for him to longingly sing about loneliness, solitude and heartbreak.“I hate your constant oscillations/You just go back and forth and back and forth again/It’s like your fucking occupation/How you shattered my beliefs like porcelain.”
The angst looms heavily over “porcelain slightly,” and Lil Ugly Mane imbues the track with the same unhinged beauty as the majority of his work. Exclusive fans of his earlier Memphis rap style may well turn their coke-rotted noses up at this musical direction, as is their prerogative. Fans of free musical expression can see the art for what it is and remain sickeningly diplomatic.
The second track, “into a life,” is a more traditional fare musically, though again Lil Ugly Mane is hitting notes instead of suckers. I will admit at this point that even an open-minded sonic explorer like me was a little deflated at the conspicuous lack of Ugly Mane bars. Nevertheless, the artistic process must be respected at all costs. “into a life” rides a compressed funk break and a delicate piano loop into a neon sunset. It is by the far more uplifting of the two tracks, still grinning wryly through the failings of a relationship and offering glimpses of hope for the future. “I was condescending, every time you tried to end it/Crises left unattended, carry on.”
Amongst Lil Ugly Mane’s various far-spanning projects, "PORCELAIN SLIGHTLY/INTO A LIFE" sticks out like a sore thumb in a big pile of sore thumbs. Though the sensitive side he displays on this release may seem like a big departure from his old horrorcore days, the juxtaposition shows the traits of a true artist. I could never see Necro allowing anyone access to his emotional core, nor would I want to. Some may petition for Ugly Mane to return to his rap roots, but I say give him a second. If he releases a couple more like this, he might get to tour with Weezer, a tour destined be heavily mythologized for the remainder of rock’n’roll history.
Connect with Lil Ugly Mane: Instagram | Twitter | Spotify