Remember when you tried sliding in a girl’s DMs on Instagram and she didn’t respond, and you texted all of your friends saying she “played you?” Yeah, Pi’erre Bourne has just the tape for you — a barrage of sad boy bangers, bursting with masculinity-affirming balladry about being too good for the hoes.
It’s a lot less than we had hoped for. Bourne, an Atlantan prodigy known for working with Playboi Carti and Young Nudy, makes psychedelic trap beats. To date, this man’s stuff has been wild: distorted, drunk, flat-out zoinked. I felt a baby buzz of a high just listening to “Magnolia.” What sets Bourne apart from, say, a Kevin Parker, is that he’s making psychedelia for the digital age. In particular, the chaotic structure (rather than the sounds themselves) of his best songs seem influenced by video games. Bourne’s manic synths and avalanching ad-libs have that frenzied, “you have 10 seconds to finish this level or the song will literally explode” quality, like in Wario Land 4’s “Hurry Up!” theme.
Expectations were incredibly high for this album. Coming off hit after hit, riding Carti’s rise to glory like a trendy art curator, Bourne had everyone’s eyes on this solo album. This statement. This sound, so trendsetting that it spawned a whole wave of Pi’erre Bourne-type beats on YouTube and SoundCloud.
The Life of Pi’erre 4 is more than two years in the making, but the result is overblown and underdone. Everything falls flat, starting with the repugnant album cover, which is just a shade of purple. I like to believe that album covers guide our listening experience, but as my sixth grade English teacher would probably say, a hue is not sufficient to constitute a theme. Perhaps it is some clownish attempt at creating his “thing;” like how Carti’s upcoming album is called Whole Lotta Red, Bourne wants to be purple, a lean-connoting alternative color for edgy sad boys who write tweets like “I don’t look up to anybody except my future self” and unironically use the purple smiling face with horns emoji in text messages.
The music is no more exciting than the cover art, or original for that matter. I get a serious Bladee vibe listening to Pi’erre, but only the bad attributes of Bladee — the tendency to soak his vocal chords in rivulets of AutoTune and croak like a frog in the same flat tone ad nauseam.
Like everything Pi’erre has ever made, the voice is just a glorified receptionist for the real star, the beat. I could see myself bumping “How High” in the Prius, or “Juice,” but just the instrumental. Bourne’s insistence on using the most obnoxious amounts of Autotune possible is really off-putting. “Doublemint” is one of the few tracks where the ridiculous level of pitch correction actually fits the beat, although he does sound a bit like he’s having a catheter inserted into his urinary tract. Many of the best beats here are ruined simply by the presence of his voice. Surely, Pi’erre, you didn’t need to come out here that much. I get that he wants to rap rather than stay as a background beatmaker forever, but maybe an even better career choice would be ASMR. His monotone drone and listless attitude towards telling stories would be well-suited to any scenario involving putting people to sleep.
Bourne’s best stuff, forever and always, has been the dirty, dystopian bangers like “R.I.P,” “One Dolla,” and “Dispatch.” Everything on here is just way too upbeat and indistinguishably nice – you could friendzone tracks like “Try Again,” “Feds,” “Romeo Must Die,” “Racer,” “Stereotypes,” and “Speed Dial.” It boggles the mind that Bourne complains in interviews about people ripping off his beats, but then turns around and drops a collection of washed-out tracks you’d expect to find from someone named Lil Wavy Boi with less than 100 followers on SoundCloud. It’s like he sparknoted himself.
His name, “Bourne,” is inspired by the popular noughties thriller saga Jason Bourne, about a man who struggles to remember who he was before the CIA psychologically and physically tortured him into becoming an assassin. Does Pi’erre Bourne identify with Jason Bourne, seeing himself as the cool, clever, maverick protagonist of the rap industry? In interviews he often talks about his upbringing, explaining that as an only child he’s used to being independent and hates all the cliques in the rap world, preferring to ride alone. It’s admirable, but there comes a point when the meal perhaps overcooks — with Bourne taking so long to make the album on his own terms, in his own voice, that it became an ego trip. The Life of Pi’erre 4 is what happens when a creator gets cooped up in the same room by himself for too long.
- Words: Kieran Press-Reynolds