Gashi – ‘ELEVATORS’ Album Review

Photo Credit: RCA Records

Gashi is the sort of musician you can’t help but root for. He has a deeply inspiring backstory; having turned to rap music for a salve as a refugee child struggling to adapt to the English language and life in New York. Moreover, his vision of rap music is a deeply inclusive one – whereas his rap peers like DaBaby or Drake (see: “Girls Want Girls”) can’t help themselves from being tone-deaf at best and grossly offensive at worst, Gashi goes out of his way to create a more welcoming environment for his fans. At a recent show in Frankfurt, Germany he took time out of his performance to call out hateful and divisive voices and to reaffirm his support of his LGBTQ+ fans.

It’s disappointing then, that ELEVATORS – while promising – can be hard to love. Listening to the musician’s fifth album, it’s not hard to see that he is immensely talented, but awkward production and lyrical choices lead to wild inconsistencies that make ELEVATORS feel more like an unwieldy scattershot collection of ideas rather than a cohesive final product. Given how prolific the Libyan-born artist has been over the years – he has five LPs, one mixtape, and one EP to his name, and has collaborated with everyone from G-Eazy to Ava Max and, regrettably, Chris Brown – it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t been in the industry that long. His first album 4Play came out less than a decade ago. 

This partially justifies and explains the lack of cohesion and/or strong identity on ELEVATORS, but it doesn’t stop such from being disappointing. The first moments of Gashi’s first post-pandemic album hint at a definitive statement of his artistry; a dramatic spoken word on “Gasoline” evokes Little Simz’s excellent Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, as the hip-hop star dramatically declares, “If you see how fast people move on after somebody died // you would think twice before you care about what anyone has to say about you.” The intro hints at deep introspection and soul-searching, but we are instead soon greeted with numerous sexually explicit lines about receiving “sloppy toppy.” The underwhelming and ill-fitting lyricism is made especially more disappointing by how fantastic Gashi’s flow is across its six minutes. 

Undercooked lyricism proves a problem throughout ELEVATORS’ runtime. “Oceans” is rife with clichés about money not buying happiness, and hiding behind walls you create, while “Closure” fails in its mission of creating a heartfelt ode to a dying relationship because of how unlikeable its narrator is – a man who essentially argues his partner should stay with him because of all the things he has bought her. Although the most bizarre and indefensible choices made on ELEVATORS are stylistic ones. Multiple tracks here lean into EDM-house stylings that are so deeply uncomplimentary to Gashi’s core strengths; subsuming his voice and his words into a tired and overbearing sonic palette. It often feels like the 33-year-old is trying too hard to be too many things to too many people. Ironically, when he strips back his music to its core elements – like on the fiery “Blood on Fur” – he makes some of the most compelling music of his career thus far.

Written by: Tom Williams

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