Big Sad 1900 – I Don’t Tap In or Tap Out (Album Review)
Big Sad 1900 raps about neighborhood tensions and everyday escapades with the hindsight of a character having a flashback at the beginning of a movie. His stories take place in and around West L.A.’s La Cienega Heights, and if you listen to him enough you can map out bits and pieces of the area without ever going there.
On his breakout singles (2019’s “Therapy” and 2020’s “La Cienega Heights”), he reflects on brawls outside of Joe’s Market where he used to mob out in front of, paranoid trips to East L.A., lost loved ones, and recurrent jail stints.
But the point of his writing is less about the action of these anecdotes and more about the hard lessons he has learned from them.
It gives his music a wistful tone that has made him stand out in a crowded L.A. rap scene.
For a while now, Big Sad has laid down tales full of life and memories on tight collaborative mixtapes with a single producer. In the last two years, he’s had projects entirely produced by G-funk-inspired beatmakers like Uce Lee, Cypress Moreno, 420Tiesto, and Steelz.
They consistently give his tapes a cohesive and low-stakes feel, and he attempts to shake this sound up on his latest album I Don’t Tap In or Tap Out. It’s more intentional, for better and for worse.
I Don’t Tap In or Tap Out isn’t a major label rap debut, but it does have the shape of one. Scattered throughout the 13 tracks are attempts to broaden his sound. It is a goal that could be read as ambitious but I think it’s cliché.
On “Chapter 16,” we get the obligatory R&B hook by guest vocalist Yvbaby, whose bad singing is made worse by AutoTune. On “Ghetto Barbie,” Big Sad takes a swing at a love song, which seems unnecessary; he’s always been capable of weaving realistic-sounding Baby Boy-lite relationship details into his lyrics.
(Here, he tells generic tales about Netflix and chilling and Dr. Miami visits.) But given the condensed structure of the record, these misses feel more like one-offs.
Big Sad 1900 is a recording artist from West Los Angeles, California small community called La Cienega Heights.
Despite the darkness of Big Sad’s stories, the producers here share a chill-sounding West Coast feel that gives the tape a breezy atmosphere. One of the best is the Uce Lee-produced “Let’s Get It Poppin,” where Big Sad raps about finding music with a sigh of relief (“Niggas mad I bossed up and got it poppin’/And be rappin’ about my life and make a profit”) over an old-school groove.
420Tiesto smoothly chops up a vocal sample on “Big Dogs,” and it’s the perfect backdrop for Big Sad and P4k, the star of L.A.’s red-hot Baby Stone Gorillas crew, to talk tough. On the bouncy “So What,” Big Sad is a little more upbeat, recounting melancholy club nights over bright percussion.
Big Sad still has plenty of room to grow. “Therapy 2,” combines his best traits (the ultra-specific details and deep introspection) with his worst (the song could use a switch-up in flow and lyrics that go beyond his clear-eyed monologue). Once he figures out his strengths, he’ll be more than a great storyteller, he’ll be a really good rapper, too.