OG Maco, a prolific underground MC who shot to the spotlight with his 2014 track, “U Guessed It,” has an unexpected pair of role models: Black Sabbath and Kid Cudi. In the past, rappers have relied heavily on jazz influences, from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Jazz” (1991) to Kendrick Lamar’s work with Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus on To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).
With the proliferation of mixtape culture and greater accessibility of the rap industry, increasingly diverse styles are being fused with hip-hop with varying degrees of success. OG Maco’s recent twenty-minute mixtape, For Scott, puts these hard-rock inspirations front and center, successfully recreating the more textured, unfinished feel of garage rock. The album is dedicated to Scott Mescudi, also known as Kid Cudi, who recently made headlines when he publicly entered treatment for depression. For many, Cudi became a symbol, a rallying point for all people who suffer from mental illness but do not feel comfortable discussing their experience. In light of Kid Cudi’s recent revelations, OG Maco has created a pensive, experimental, and unexpected tape.
For Scott opens slowly, with the dreamlike title track. Maco refers directly to Cudi, discussing Cudi’s impact on the rap industry and on Maco himself. Like most of the tape, the song is a stark departure from “U Guessed It,” and his most recent project, Lord of Rage (2016). It layers heavily autotuned vocals over a toned-down but powerful beat, creating a haunting tribute that forces the listener to reassess their expectations for Maco. He does not hesitate to replace his choruses with unabashed wailing, expressing the profound anger, desperation, and hopelessness that dominates the work. As the tape progresses, he builds intensity, piecing together Cudi-inspired moaning, intense and dark beats, and unabating autotune into a consistent sound. Maco does a good job of tapping new and upcoming producers for the project, but their inexperience shows at times through unimaginative and repetitive beats. Despite collaborating with a different producer on every track, Maco takes the clear creative lead to create a worthy tribute to one of his idols.
Vocal effects feature heavily in the album, but sometimes struggle to match the production and mood of each song. “At Night” and “Restless” feel weighed down by their autotune, as if it were sonic molasses that the instrumentals had to struggle to escape. Immediately after, “Remember,” produced by indie beatmaker Humbeats, has a much more airy quality, lacing soft synths and a mellow bassline to accompany Maco’s reflective flow. Maco works through the rigors fame exerts on his friendships, constantly questioning if those around him are just there to build their social media profiles or promote their own careers. His Black Sabbath influences come into full play in “Courage,” which sounds remarkably more like rock than hip-hop, reminiscent of Cudi’s most recent full album, Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. The song sounds like it belongs among Cudi’s discography, with remorseful vocals backing angry and simple verses. “Courage” is by far the longest song on the project, but feels repetitive by the second half despite its adventurous sound and experimentalism. Throughout the mixtape, Maco’s bars feel murky and unfinished, and the chorus lines are hummed or mumbled too many times to be fully impactful.
For Scott is a short but heartfelt tribute to Kid Cudi, who plays a prominent role in the sound of the tape. Because of his reliance on autotune, Maco doesn’t break new ground for rap as a whole, and the autotune ends up drawing attention from his unpredictable and energetic verses. Though the sounds that Maco creates are a massive departure from his usual style, he finds considerable success attempting to replicate the melancholic and spacey sounds of his idol.