Ufo361 - 808 (Review)

Martin_Canine UFO361

If the German speaking world was ever in need for their own version of Future, they couldn’t get anyone better than Ufo361. Not only because he perfectly adapted the style of sinister trap music with digital aesthetics, but because he delivers it with the exact same high quality as the American rapper whose signature sound it is.

It’s been strange days in the German hip hop scene since 2016. When Fler’s Vibe peaked at number one back then, it felt like a combo breaker, and the impact it would have in the next two years couldn’t have been foreseen by anyone. The genre had a slow but steady evolution from the 90s to now, from pop rap to slightly more RnB inspired one to dark sinister gangsta rap to epic hardcore hip hop with multisyllabic complex rhyme schemes. It’s a steady and linear development, with one style building up on the other - the sudden confrontation with trap, a more melodious flow and completely different aesthetics turned everything upside down. The movement evolved since then, with hip hop that’s sung rather than rapped (with Autotune, that is) and more recently, the French Afrotrap style, becoming increasingly popular in addition to the darker, traditional idea of hip hop that’s still around.

That an artist like Ufo361 gets such an amount of exposure and success probably wouldn’t have been possible 3 years ago. But in 2018, a rapper that uses gloomy beats, deep autotuned vocals and a thick dazed atmosphere is not just accepted, but gets universal love, and rightfully so. Ufo361’s stoned, spheric vocals slides over the beat through endless fields of luxury and haze, of self-celebration and angst, of expensive shoes and frightening paranoia. “Without me, German rap would long be lost” re raps in a burst of megalomania, “Without me, German rap would have never been reborn”. While I tend to disagree with his legacy being as big, this year’s hip hop output would definitely sound a lot less exciting without him.

A lot of the appeal of Ufo361’s music comes from the futuristically distorted, slurry vocals in combination with surreal ambient sounds and chant along choruses, but still the words aren’t unimportant. He creates a fevery dream out of different stages of luck and melancholy that give us a very thrilling in-depth look into the mentality of a man who is crazily popular and just barely can keep up with it. On the deeply dark Power he boasts “I am the king, you are all farmers / nobody got such a power” in a way usually only Kanye West could and would say it, but with a vocal delivery indicated the psychic state of King Lear, short before a breakdown. It’s not rare that he sounds like Tony Montana right after he snorted the cocaine mountain, although Ufo361 probably rather drank so much lean that his brains have been sent to a parallel universe while recording. On the hit single Beverly Hills he sobs “When I die, then I die a rich man”, which probably sums up much of the album’s content. While on many songs he seems to enjoy his status and wealth, there are just as many in which he seems to be afraid of something, may it be death or being betrayed by so-called friends, and tries to compensate this with his fame and luxurious lifestyle. While for much of the album this is hidden behind overwhelming production and earworm hooks, it becomes very apparent once Alpträume (“nightmares”) kicks in and starts off with the following lines: “Yes, I was afraid of myself / That I fail and the others would like it / That I would disappoint my fam / Was there for you too rarely, only for my friends, yeah / I was afraid, didn’t want to live anymore, no”. It’s only getting darker from then on, when he starts elaborating on the pressure to constantly release new material without having any success, and with no media coverage at all, which caused him to have severe sleeping problems, which in turn increased his depression. The entire song has a strong claustrophobic feel to it. It’s the album’s bleakest moment, and despite the music of the rest being just as sinister, he’s focusing more of his current life as a hip hop star with all the money and status it gives him. But we can now understand why he became who he is, and why even the most exaggerated bragging sounds oddly emotional.

With Capital Bra, RAF Camora, Yung Hurn and Gzuz, Ufo361 gathers the really, really big names of the current class of German language hip hop as feature guests (or, as I call it, the post-Fler hip hop class), but there is never a moment of doubt who the spotlight really belongs to. They all deliver great verses, but neither has the depth to give insight to their minds. On Superstar he announces a Future feature, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually follows later this year - after all, it’s known he already recorded an unreleased song with Quavo. And I don’t know who else would fit that perfectly apart from Future. I am not usually a fan of the collaborations between German and American rappers, as it often feels like a mashup rather than a song that’s fully developed (different flows, lyrical themes and voices), but apart from the language, Future and Ufo361 have the same signature sound, as well as the same level of quality.