Fueled by spooky production and gleeful depictions of violence, Young Nudy's delightfully sinister "Dr. Evil" cements him as hip-hop's deadliest slasher.
There aren’t many artists quite like Young Nudy, a standout member of Atlanta’s expansive hip-hop scene. A seemingly oxymoronic conclusion; how can one stand out while being so thoroughly understated? Moreover, how can a self-declared antagonist styling himself Dr. Evil, a perhaps-unwitting homage to the Austin Powers megalomaniac, be understated to begin with?
Such is the fascinating conundrum of Young Nudy, a subject that may well puzzle academics seeking to understand the duality of man. One need only watch an interview with the 4L rapper to witness this duality first hand. Affable, mischievous, prone to laughter — qualities seldom associated with the horror film slashers from whom he draws inspiration. Yet embedded within his music, and most predominantly on his dark new album Dr. EV4L, are lyrics closer to horrorcore than hilarity.
An understandable progression, given how deeply rooted horrorcore is in Southern rap tradition. Nudy’s approach to the macabre subgenre is part of what makes him unique. There’s little conscious effort to position himself as a supernatural figure, despite evoking the likes of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers in his rhymes. His depictions of atrocities — and there are many, doled out with the same amusing disposition seen in his many memorable interviews — resonate in their simple brutality. Though he doesn’t have to rob, having “graduated home invasions, no more kick-door,” that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to. All the while, his longtime collaborator Coupe’s production seems to capture what his darker impulses might sound like were they expressed through music. Beats wander and storm beneath Nudy’s unfettered verses, vintage horror scores candy painted with the shiny sheen of modern trap production.
That’s not to say that Dr. EV4L is a joyless affair in the slightest. The sheer happiness Nudy seems to find in reflecting on his penchant for violence keeps the laughter contagious -- if a little nervous. Seldom does he mask his intention under the guise of metaphorical language. His lyrics are exactly as he presents them, even when he’s granting brief moments of character development amidst the carnage. One of the most revealing arrives on “Columbian Necktie” of all places, where he casually recalls the moment both his mom and his teachers kicked him out, inadvertently setting a twisted origin story in motion. “Now I'm going to a haunted house, tryna make a way out,” he raps, finding solace in the typically unwelcoming. “Started getting on them xannies, now I'm feelin' fine.”
From start to finish, the project’s instrumentals are highly immersive. The strange beats add further character to Nudy’s rhymes, imbuing his gangsta-rap musings with paranormal quality. “Perc 30” feels like a hallucinogenic trip to the circus, while “Child’s Play” manages to be simultaneously innocent and menacing. "Boy, you know I'm rich shooter, gotta add more zeros," he raps on the former. "I ain't shootin' shit for free, Slime ain't been a hero." The latter, a duet with his cousin 21 Savage, allows their distinctive horror influences to collide in a playful crossover event that evokes the spirit of Freddy Vs. Jason. "Ever seen a bullet bust out his brain?" asks Nudy. "Tall killer, man, he just like Michael Myers / Walk up on a ni*ga, take off his chain."
While it’s difficult to assess whether or not the project is Nudy’s definitive best album, it’s certainly among the most immediate. There’s a clear sense of cohesion, granted further credibility through the marriage of excellent art direction and production. From a performance standpoint, Nudy continues to equip his arsenal with a variety of unpredictable flows, his many threats and violent boasts effortlessly delivered. Like any great slasher, there’s repetition to the formula. Nudy seldom pushes to reinvent himself, favoring the subjects he favors and cycling through them in stream-of-consciousness fashion. But as audiences never tire of watching Michael Myers terrorize the streets of Haddonfield with wanton murder, Nudy’s charismatic presence keeps the familiarity forgivable.