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Single Review: Smilez – “I Hate My Ex”

Smilez melds more pop elements than he does hard hip-hop rhymes in his new single “I Hate My Ex,” but while his lyrical wit is certainly something that should feel like the proper showcase here, it’s hardly the only reason why I would recommend serious rap fans give the track a close listen this September. Composed around its minimalist melody and a stirring groove that only gets more enthralling as we sink into the song’s most gripping of corners, “I Hate My Ex” is frills-free hip-hop with an honest pop tone to its narrative, both of which are in increasingly high demand at the moment.

Everything is built on the concept of highlighting the interplay between the bass and the drums in this track, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a lot of disproportionate focus on the instrumentation over the vocal. Smilez has a way of getting a reaction out of us one way or another in all of his songs, and in the case of “I Hate My Ex,” he’s utilizing as much of the bassline as he is the beat and his verse in creating an enigmatic, but surreally relatable, tale for us to connect with here. It’s alternative hip-hop if I’ve ever heard it, but hardly a stab at left-field postmodernity.

The vocal style here is almost punky as we get into the guts of the song, and though it’s not quite as melodic as it likely could have been, it’s not steeped in an overaggressive aesthetic at all. There’s something sharply contrasting about the delivery Smilez is going with and the slow-creeping of the percussion, but the conflict isn’t enough to impede the fluidity of the music at all – the exact opposite, truth be told. This is a rapper who knows a lot more about music than just making a sly rhyme and a hot beat to accompany it.

There’s a lot of polish on the master mix here, but not to any degree of leaving a negative aftertaste. I think it was important to make “I Hate My Ex” a little more varnished and light on bells and whistles than its competition has been, and while it might not please fans of a slightly heavier, hook-laden sound, I don’t get the impression that Smilez is all that worried about winning their affections. He’s playing for himself in this track, and as selfish as that might appear, it’s yielding some of the strongest results we’ve heard from his sessions to date.

I can’t speak for the hip-hop world as a whole, but speaking for myself, I dig where Smilez is taking his sound with “I Hate My Ex,” and I hope that this song is just a small sampling of what we’re going to be hearing out of any upcoming LPs he might already have in the tank. This is a great era for independent hip-hop, and despite the amount of talent we’re hearing across the board this year, Smilez is a player that indie fans should be keeping a close eye on as this generation’s story continues to unfold.

Bethany Page



About Michael Stover

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