The web has been blowing up over Dropxlife’s new mixtape, Furthur, and the hype is well deserved. The Weeknd affiliate’s mixtape is an easy-walking, slow-talking slice of instrumental R&B. The sound is slow motion with heavily treated vocal snippets bouncing off walls of bass jelly.
Dropxlife is a member of the XO crew along with the Weeknd and producer Illangelo. Casual fans probably won’t be familiar with him, but like the Weeknd and the rest of the XO crew, that’s probably the way he wants it. Finding a bio and background information on Dropxlife feels like searching for some forgotten artifact from ancient times. Mentions and snippets of information pop up here and there (he was thanked in the liner notes of Drake’s latest album Take Care and he co-produced the Weeknd track “Initiation” off Echoes of Silence) but for the most part, it’s a frustrating, fruitless search.
The mixtape opens with four thuds and a stomp of purple glitter and gold on “MADEXMEN.” With gently falling whispers, out-of-body vocal cadences and slow lurching beats, it’s a fitting opener to the album. The song introduces the album’s all-enveloping blend of psychedelic mood and atmosphere, but doesn’t give away all the tricks.
Dropxlife is the kind of producer who knows how to draw a listener in without stealing too much attention. Unlike The Weeknd, whose furtive confessions and shadowy glance demand the front-and-center spotlight, Furthur asks only for a little room to pulse and swell. It’s not the kind of album that will take you by storm and shove your face into the speakers. Furthur encircles, but it doesn’t constrict. It lulls a listener into a hazy atmosphere without flashing lights and alarm bells.
Since it’s very likely most readers are imagining The Weeknd sans vocals, I should clarify that Dropxlife isn’t the group’s main producer (that’d be Illangelo) and his work, though it may fit under the umbrella, certainly doesn’t sound like The Weeknd. It’s less threatening, less desperate, and somewhat more optimistic. I don’t hear the same dirty-minded desperation wriggling through the cracks of Furthur.
Listening to Furthur feels a bit like walking unfamiliar streets or an unseen path. It’s exciting to feel every curve in the pavement, step over unmarked stones and turn without a second thought. Every step comes closer to something new, but on this release the journey doesn’t exactly complete. Like a sidewalk to the sun or a river to the center of the Earth, you know there’s a destination, but it will always be an eternity away. Perhaps the next album might provide some closure, but this one leaves you looking down the path saying “I know we could go a little further.”