Review: ‘PTSD’

D-Block Europe remain stagnant, boring listeners with 90 minutes of tiring trap music.

Trap has been on the rise in the English commercial market for the past few years. One of the driving forces for that rise has been D-Block Europe, the UK rap duo consisting of Young Adz and Dirtbike LB. Their blueprint is a textbook execution of how to put out music as a trap artist; that is, by putting out a lot of it. The duo released their Home Alone mixtape earlier in February, a lengthy but polished collection of enjoyable trap songs.

Only seven months later, D-Block have returned bigger but not better. PTSD exaggerates the flaws of the popular rap landscape, shining an unwanted light on DBE’s deficiencies.

For a project like PTSD, the flaws must be moderated in order to be brilliant. The announcement of the mixtape came with 28 tracks, a massive reason to be concerned before even hearing a single song. This isn’t a 50 Cent Greatest Hits album where a 28-track project can be justified. DBE’s decision to choose quantity over quality means there is an abundance of throwaway songs that do not reach the calibre necessary to warrant placements. As a result, PTSD exhausts listeners with 90 minutes of enjoyable highs and extreme lows. “Ain’t Chanelle”, “Adore Me”, “Paid the Price”, “The Bag”, “No Cap 2” and “Birth Sign” are just a few of the songs that add little to the project, lacking any memorable melody, chorus or beat to keep the ball rolling.

Trap music is often generic, but good trap music is generic with style. There are little details that provide an edge, whether that is in the lyrics, flow or production. PTSD lacks subtle variation to break the formula for even ten minutes. There was hope for some substance based on the mixtape’s name. An insight into Adz and LB’s traumas and how they use their vices to cope with these traumas. The intro skit sets the tape up for this narrative, but only a percentage of the bars touch on the vices. When it is mentioned it’s only for a brief moment and on the most surface level possible (“Pop another xan I don’t wanna feel the pain”).

Even the argument to ‘read between the lines’ holds little weight. A basic reference to drug consumption does not build an automatic connection to PTSD or convey it, and rather undermines the complexity of PTSD and those that suffer from it. The attempt to make the content ‘deep’ doesn’t do enough for PTSD to gain artistic merit.

It gets worse when isolating the duo’s mundane lyrics, something that plenty of casual consumers do not pay attention to. Rapping about sex can be successful as long as it is done inventively. But DBE refuse to do so, spewing the same nonsense on every song that shows just how much they value their diehard fans. “Home Pussy” is as vulgar as it gets, but it at least compensates with an irresistible melody. By the time the project has ended the listener themselves will have gained PTSD from hearing about pussy so much. It is a laughable offence and impossible to take seriously.

Fun fact: Every song on PTSD except “Playing for Keeps” mentions “pussy” in the lyrics at least once.

Knowing the level at which they’re competing, even the guest appearances do not save the songs. The worst song on the project, “Nookie”, provides a moment to impress with Lil Baby’s verse, as does M Huncho opening “Back to Back”. The songs reach their lows once DBE’s verses kick in with the bland Auto-Tune, non-existent flows and same old lyrics.

A few performances by the duo are borderline ridiculous, namely Young Adz’s hiccupping delivery on “Heart Safe” and the obnoxious vocals on “Ain’t Chanelle”. These are further examples of moments that cannot be heard without cringing. Some sensible invention in the duo’s flows and delivery would have taken these songs out the gutter.

PTSD rarely intrigues, but luckily there are exceptions. The electronic beat on “Different” and DBE’s performances on it turns up the energy, as well as adding a hint of depth (“Heart broke, heart break, yeah, my heart is suffering / How the fuck I’m payin’ for the sins, that all my mother did”). Young Adz’s solo track “Number 29” is also energetic in its thumping beat. “Pretty Little Nike Airs” is a sweet callback to the Any Minute Now mixtape with its memorable hook and melody.

When pushing the tolerance, half of the 28-track PTSD could be taken and result in an enjoyable tape. There are between 12 to 14 songs that are above average and carry some replay value. But this summarises the problem with PTSD – having to accept mediocrity. Tasteless listeners who are comfortable with hearing the same beat and subject matter on every song will have no complaints. Neither will a 28-song tracklist be an issue when there are no standards in mind to begin with.

PTSD shows that standards for trap music in the UK are at an all-time low. Young Adz and Dirtbike LB could have succeeded with the theme presented but instead appeal to the lowest common denominator of music consumers. Repetitive beats, tasteless lyrics and overall mediocrity prevents PTSD from a revisit. If DBE want to remain successful, they must go back to the drawing board immediately.

Rating: 4 / 10

Favourite tracks: “Home Pussy”, “Whole Summer”, “Love”, “Different”, “Number 29”

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