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Single Review: Donae`o – “Swaggy”

Donae’o isn’t just sounding confident as he runs into the chorus of his new single, “Swaggy,” out this coming July everywhere quality indie hip-hop is sold and streamed; if anything, he’s got a mission from beginning to end here. While most rap music tends to be chorus-oriented, Donae’o takes the concept to an entirely different place on multiple fronts in this latest release, which invites a guest in the form of O.G. Relli along for the ride. With a thick bassline and luxurious grooves in hand, “Swaggy” comes packing a serious punch for anyone craving some hard beats, but it’s far more than just a dance number for the club crowd.

There isn’t a trace of excess in the instrumental arrangement here; in fact, I would say that “Swaggy” is a little barebones compared to what I’d envisioned Donae’o doing here. O.G. Relli’s contribution doesn’t leave any leftover room for synthesizers for the sake of sport, and much to my delight, there isn’t a point where the percussion and the bassline become so interwoven that we can’t tell where one end of the beat ends and the other begins. Detail matters in rap, and in 2023, this pair of collaborators are showcasing just how attentive to the little things they can be.

From an instrumental standpoint, this track demands a lot out of Donae’o’s abilities, but he doesn’t hesitate in his delivery here at all. On the contrary, he rises to the occasion as though he’s been building up to this moment since dropping his debut well over a decade ago. He’s got so much that he’s letting go in the reverberated verses imparted to us in “Swaggy,” and while this isn’t his most patient performance, it’s undeniably one of his most exposed and unguarded.

I would have liked just a little more percussive presence in the chorus, but I do understand what O.G. Relli and Donae’o were trying to accomplish by going another way.

If their main intention was to magnify the understated surrealism in the harmony at this point in the song, leaving the robust drum pattern out of the marquee melee was probably the most intelligent thing to do. This way, we’re able to focus exclusively on the stony quality of the melodic backdrop guiding our path into the storm of percussion waiting on the other side of the hook. It’s complex, but Donae’o makes it sound all too simple here.

I had heard a lot of good things about this upcoming release ahead of actually listening to it for myself, and now having gotten addicted to its passionate poetry and seductive rap attack, I get what my critical peers have been lauding Donae’o as much as they have lately. His teaming with O.G. Relli was one of the best decisions he could have made coming into 2023, because with the release of “Swaggy,” he maximizes his appeal with an entirely new audience. I like what he’s up to at the moment, and once you’ve heard this single, I think you’ll share my sentiments.

Benjamin Cross

About Michael Stover

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