Rittz – Next To Nothing
Strange Music: 2014
About 5 years ago, it looked like hip-hop was primed for a new golden age. The promise of the internet had given rise to a whole new underground of artists growing and creating strange things without the demands and wills of the radio. But alas, it was not meant to be. After the first rappers got large contracts off their viral videos, the internet became another A&R talent pool for the major labels searching for the next big thing. Some rappers adapted, others tried and failed, and a lot were just left in the void without a place for them in the new system.
Rittz is one of those niche-destined artists. Back when the internet was so prosperous it could afford two speed-rapping white boys from the country, Rittz made a name for himself working with Yelawolf in addition to his first mixtape, White Jesus, in 2011. Filled with potential, White Jesus showcased everything that was great about Rittz—triple-time flow, Southern-fried beats that sound best when destroying car sound systems, and a penchant for provocation. But with his boss locked up in label limbo and the rap game rapidly changing, Rittz’s big chance never appeared. Now signed with famed independent label Strange Music, he’s released his second album, Next To Nothing, to an audience that’s not what it used to be.
Next To Nothing aims for an outsider pop takeover but ends up screaming meekly for attention. The album sands off the rough and interesting aspects of Rittz’s music. The Southern knock has been replaced by middling spacious ambience. His oddball eccentricity has been transfigured into another gloomy proletariat rapper waving his fist against the system. And his clever concepts have been reduced to dollar store hooks that weigh down the entire song. “Turn Down” has him telling a “bitch” to, well, turn down and “LAF” has him laughing at rappers who are lame as fuck (get it?). “Call 911” is a schlocky attempt at shock value and there are two (two!!) Mike Posner appearances. Not only are these hooks elementary in any case, but they clash with the embittered spirit of his raps.
When all else fails, however, there’s still bars. And Rittz remains a wonderful rapper, never harnessing his triple time speed as a crutch but rather as an enhancement. While some of the spark of his original flow has been diluted into metronome time keeping, there are still moments on Next To Nothing that dazzle. “Bounce” is the immediate highlight, with a strong Twista verse and Rittz showing and proving. “White Rapper” is one of the many moments on the album where RIttz wears his heart on his sleeve, but this time he actually has something to say, detailing how he feels at odds in a genre and community that might never accept him. Unfortunately those moments are few; most of the time the dour atmosphere paints him as unsympathetic.
The only thing to do after listening to Next To Nothing is wonder, Who was he making this for? None of his old fans would want him to go full on into such cheesy song structure, and Strange Music wouldn’t force him to undercut his emotional venting with his random pop grabs. Maybe this was a personal exorcism, but it would have been better to go straight for it rather than watch from the sidelines. There is no feeling more frustrating than when watching an artist with potential get zapped by the industry. It’s even worse when there’s no reason for it in the first place.
2.5 out of 5
You can purchase Next To Nothing on Amazon.