Mean: NSFW

source: Mean

Mean’s NSFW is one of JUICE Malaysia’s favourite hip hop releases from this region in recent years — hqa of The Rebel Scum doesn’t disagree. Read his thoughts on the Singaporean rapper’s full-length follow-up to In Flight EP below…

Put In Work
It’s safe to say, Mean puts in work. Having had three solid releases in four and change years (including one as a part of duo Bloody Fat Fucks) is as productive as it gets as a musician in this often thankless region. His previous In Flight EP was good, but NSFW is an improvement.

The first track, ‘Lights, Camera, Action’, one of my favourites from this album, is an indication of what to expect. The beat is ear-catching with attention to detail. The arrangement is ingenious, and Mean is skilled enough as an emcee to oblige and ride through every transition, adapting his flow flawlessly. It’s not just within the songs itself that a well though-out structure is apparent, every track seems to transition nicely from one to another. There is a coherent vision in the production aspect of this album and it can’t just be a coincidence.

It may seem like I’m giving too much #early praise to the production team rather than the artiste himself, but consider this – Mean produced almost half of this album, and even if he didn’t, remind yourselves how many great emcees faltered because they weren’t good at choosing beats for themselves.

NSFW’s subject of thought is personal and as humans are, quite conflicting. Mean indulges in braggadocio (‘Dive’) as much as self-questioning (‘Take Me [feat. F △ U X E]’). He also references hustling constantly, deliberately rendering the album title an irony, or maybe not – because as I’m writing this review and ‘Journey To The West’ is playing, I got so into the song (especially when that transition hits at around 1:05, ooh) that I had to stop and cook to it for a minute. Maybe this album is NSFW after all.

I don’t usually care about what emcees rhyme about if the music’s good, but focusing on what’s personal gives this album a touch of genuineness. It is, however, at the cost of ridiculousness and swaggery, which emerged more when he was part of Bloody Fat Fucks.

Hip hop is the most progressive genre in the world, what constitutes a certain sound might diversify in mere months. I’m glad Mean didn’t stray too much from his love for the ambient and the cloudy, merely updating and adding to it, making this album feel current and thorough. It’s easy for a rap artiste to get comfortable and stagnate, but on NSFW, Mean’s development production-wise and as an emcee is evident, and I feel he is not far from being the complete article.

The second half of NSFW is XS heavy, and his crewmates, while theoretically differing in style, don’t disappoint. I’m particularly impressed by Illohshix and Azrael on ‘Villain’, the song has that old school XS spirit in modern form. ‘No Guns’, which follows, is full of lyrical savagery, however, I felt it was weird that its outro sounded like a melancholy Sheila Majid song. It’s as if they suddenly got nostalgic after three verses of throwing shades. Other artistes featured on this album blend in seamlessly – complementing the main man, they neither sell short nor steal the limelight.

Between his distinct fashion sense, ability to churn out strong contemporary projects, and charismatic live performances, it’s a mystery why Mean hasn’t crossed over yet. I feel and hope he is two or three hits away from being an Asian rap star.

Rating: 3 1/2

nsfw.xs1.sg