On Glaive’s fourth EP ‘a bit of a mad one’, the artist slows down but still delivers his characteristic blend of emo rap and hyperpop. Compared to last year’s debut full length album ‘i care so much that i don’t care at all’, ‘a bit of a mad one’ shows a more thoughtful side of the 19-year-old artist. Glaive leans away from his pop-based past, instead opting for more traditional Soundcloud rap instrumentals. But make no mistake: Glaive still manages to wedge in driving, synth-based beats on this 13 minute cut. 

Glaive draws on artists like Lil Peep and Juice WRLD for his vocal performance and lyrical inspiration, but with decidedly amped up instrumentals. ‘even when the sun is dead, will you tell them how hard i tried?’, the record’s opener, could be an XXXTentacion song, until you reach the chaotic, blown out synths in the middle that sound more like something you’d hear at an EDM festival. 

‘i care so much that i don’t care at all’ was a bracingly honest record: the album opens with Glaive setting his own suicide note to music. The artist continues the themes of heartbreak, depression, and adolescent angst on this album, but with less of the rapidfire, in-your-face succession of tragedies which occupied Glaive’s lyrics in the past. The EP is more reflective than the full length cut and lacks the pop influence which showed itself on Glaive’s earlier tracks like ‘im nothing that’s all i am’ and ‘the car’.

The EP’s strongest track is ‘god is dead’. Here, an improbable combination of references (Nietszche, 2000s kitsch, the Bible, his own earlier work) form the EP’s most in-your-face track. Glaive’s style works best when he pushes the melodrama. His lyrics, as with many Soundcloud emo rappers, ring true to what one might write in a high school diary: he talks about everyone leaving, and blood on his hands, and giving everything to one person, but this is punctuated by a pulsing beat and pitched up harmonies. 

Glaive’s genre of hyperpop-inflected internet rap is a niche almost entirely populated by TikTok-brained zoomers. These kinds of musicians – the kids messing around in FL Studio making beats with their friends – have, in some way, supplanted the image of the amateur musician as an angst-wrought teen playing guitar in a garage. The major difference being that young musicians no longer care about selling out. Glaive signed to Interscope at age 15. 

Glaive in the ‘even when the sun is dead, will you tell them how hard I tried’ music video. Screenshot via Youtube

As one of the many Tik Tok native artists who cut their teeth on Soundcloud rap, Glaive sometimes suffers from a sound that’s too polished. The instrumentals on this record – like on ‘living proof (that it hurts)’ – can be a little too clean, and fall flat. The rough-around-the-edges sound of Glaive’s earlier work enhanced his self-made ethos, and made the songs feel more personal. 

The muddled, simple acoustic guitar strumming which opens ‘hope alaska national anthem’ would be at home on a much more lofi album. But then Glaive layers on top of the guitar to build out the instrumental in a way that recalls his emo rap progenitors. Both this track and ‘living proof (that it hurts)’ feel a little too overproduced to fit in with his prior acoustic tracks while missing the high energy which characterizes tracks like ‘huh’. 

Studio production does not always work in Glaive’s favor. On some tracks, the hyperpop sound – with all its quirks – has given way to something that sounds more like what we’ve heard before. That said, Glaive’s music is still glaringly original. He excels in extremes, even if those extremes end up overwrought, and ‘a bit of a mad one’ still has shining moments which are hard to find on other records right now. 

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