Do you remember those commercials for V8 Juice, where the person smacks themselves on the head, telling themselves they could have had a V8 instead of the overly sugary drink in hand? That was me, except when getting around to listening to LA Rapper ICECOLDBISHOP’s debut album, Generational Curses. ICECOLDBISHOP isn’t mincing words, giving us a purview of broken systems and the struggle of life imitating art, where there is no overly glimmering sight of hope, instead underlying the limited acceptance had with the notion of having hope, following in the lineage of what’s afforded to said community. Imagine hyperactive commentary on all that, explored through West Coast, G-Funk-influenced beats, and potent lyrics with poignancy, while the underlying production tends to be milder. There are a lot of great things going on in this debut; what sticks is that Generational Curses speaks to the sneering doom within ICECOLDBISHOP’s heart and mind as he sees a consistent cycle, keeping generation after generation feeling cursed as the socio-political climate teeters like an ill-conceived roller coaster; it kept me at the edge of my seat, despite inconsistent production and being a little derivative of a style.
If not for ICECOLDBISHOP’s writing, Generational Curses would be something that would have easily gotten forgotten, like the poignant display of gun violence on Wara’s 2015 album, P.S.A. Instead, it’s a profound album, using its subject matter to make the listener contextualize the words he’s spitting. There isn’t a genuine pop single (popular), opting for tone and gripping imagery to weave these tales that sees ICECOLDBISHOP giving us these perspectives of violence in gang life like an aspect of the culture involving chain snatching, which we hear on the phenomenal “Out The Window.” It’s a constant motif that guides the album as these ups and downs transpire before Bishop and his family, whether advert or inadvertent. We hear an example through the excellent commentary on “The Gov’t Gave Us Guns.” On the track, Bishop attacks legislators and gun laws, playing with the loose laws, allowing him to get a gun and go home the same day without background checks, noting that the Government low-key wants us to kill each other.
ICECOLDBISHOP isn’t negligible of the world outside of his immediate zone. He gives us a perspective through his community; he writes by creating parallels with issues that have been awash for ages, like drug use, gang violence, and misguided funds creating hardships for particular communities to excel, thus finding some people feeling the bread is in hustling. It’s a little derivative of the overly animated vocalizations heard through artists like Kendrick Lamar and Danny Brown, but the writing is crisp enough to look past most of it. On “D.A.R.E.,” ICECOLDBISHOP speaks on visual influence and perpetuating evil with the wrong descriptors. Named after a program that helped youths say no to drugs, Bishop plays with a double entendre, as the program is given to pre-teens (Aged 12) when we’re more impressionable, sometimes making us think differently about drugs. When I looked at posters explaining the effects of something like ecstasy, it reflected addiction instead of loose users, who may take it three times a year when they go to an Electronic music festival. Bishop plays coy with the chorus and opening of his verses, talking about these thoughts about trying different drugs because words don’t offer the same weight as visuals, and if one is told cocaine does this, but another person you trust more does it, it skews perspective.
It’s balancing anger by spicing it up with dread-filled tones and acute directness as ICECOLDBISHOP feels his generation, like the previous, is cursed. He’s delivering an overly violent actualization of his words, circumventing them into this zone that messes some people’s lives – it isn’t to say it’s parallel to what is happening around ICECOLDBISHOP. It’s as if most avenues for success and exploration beyond the impoverished or systematically corrupt are limited – thus, Bishop’s slight casualness behind the constant apropos violence and hustle and drug issues getting rapped about. Bishop makes it known how viscerally horrific it is, compared to others who have more of a streamlined life, where instead of getting your first Gameboy at 15, you’re flipping from the TEC to a MAC-10. It’s about the influence in front of you and how you get steered, even when sometimes you feel like you have little choice.
We hear violent content Generational Curse consistently, but more so showcasing the darker path at the fork in the road, considering the world ICECOLDBISHOP develops phenomenally, especially the tracks “Full Fledge,” “Bad Influences From My Uncle,” “I Can’t Swim,” “Out The Window,” and “Cursed. They carry with them this absorbent depth that keeps a listener engaged from beginning to end; unfortunately, there are moments its content can get derivative, but it’s regaling to the point you can sit back and let it coast without much hesitation. It doesn’t benefit it much that the production is too aligned with the sound of the West, that it doesn’t try hard to push boundaries, sounding like composites of a style produced where it has enough glitz to add a medium-lit aurora around the vocals. Consistency is essential, especially when constructing that first album – ICECOLDBISHOP had a direction and kept it fluid throughout, never veering off the beaten path to shift the sound on a quick paradigm. That’s one of the better qualities you seek in a debut because it leaves the space between the now and the ceiling an artist can reach, and ICECOLDBISHOP still has room to grow.
I thoroughly enjoyed Generational Curse, despite its flaws. It opens the doors for a rapper hungry to take that next step and realize his potential. Though he’s mirroring this assertive style that has creative limitations, ICECOLDBISHOP keeps it authentic to his craft, and that elevates it further. I’d say the ceiling is high for him, and this album made me excited for more. Give it a listen, and let me know what you think.