On his latest EP, rapper AirlineJay does his best Jay-Z impersonation and comes off wanting. Welcome to the Loft is an experiment in contradictions; it is, at once, both expertly produced yet naïve, highly original yet imitating, socially conscious yet offensive.
This EP sounds great. Its backing tracks are insanely good, inventive, and well-mixed. Even the overall timbre of AirlineJay’s voice is well-suited for the rap game, which is not something an artist comes by easily. Welcome to the Loft is a polished collection of songs that, were it not for their lyrics, could become sensational hits. Like many new rappers, AirlineJay falls into the trap of trying to be everything that every successful rapper should be. He’s got lines about “straight thuggin’” and his mom and how hard he had it growing up and how he’s rolling in money now and how he respects women and wants to give them everything their men don’t but not if they’re bitches or hoes, all presented in the typical ways that a thousand rappers before AirlineJay have and a thousand rappers after AirlineJay will spit with imitative passion.
In the end, what I can deduce is that in trying to mimic the classic tropes of a bona fide millennial gangster, AirlineJay has depicted himself as a naïve misogynist. Instead of forging a new path that accurately represents the man behind AirlineJay, the rapper has decided to create a fantasy version of himself that grunts like Yeezy and makes money like Weezy, but ends up sounding like every other rapper who has never made out of the underground. 90 percent of the onus falls on AirlineJay to change his music from meek to mighty, which is totally within his capabilities, but the other 10 percent is on the front-runners of the rap game. As idols and demi-gods for a huge population of kids, popular rappers do nothing to portray the realities of becoming famous and the nitty-gritty details of making an album and an image that sells. Fans usually know nothing of what these now-celebrities had to give up as human beings to have their songs nominated for VMAs and used in car commercials, leaving only the beautiful façade of opulence and stability for their legions of devotees to cling to as inspiration. Because why be yourself when you can be what sells? However, what many of these fledgling rappers miss in their attempts to make it big is the fact that hip-hop legends and current hip-hop kings and queens did not get there by being entirely unoriginal. There has to be something, some aspect of a rapper’s persona or musical style that audiences find intriguing for an artist to reach Biggie-levels of hype. Hopefully, AirlineJay will figure out what that is for himself before dissolving into the throngs of adoring hip-hop fans who could sound just like him.