[Album Review] Tierra Whack Invites Us Into Her “Whack World”

By: Hope Ankney

Take a break from the usual, run-of-the-mill artist release full of lovesick undertones with accompanying music videos and promotional campaigns that look as shiny and structured as the chrome on a new automobile. Instead, journey through Tierra Whack’s unpredictable and zany world which feels like breathing fresh air in an industry that doesn’t encourage delving into one’s own remarkable madness enough.

 

Philadelphia-based, artistic free-bird, Tierra Whack has established herself as a force to be reckoned with on the tides of her first major release, Whack World. Building off her natural freestyle talents and musical inspirations growing up, Whack utilizes bass-heavy raps, soulful R&B, and synth-pop as she crafts one of the strongest and most creatively driven concept album in ages. A record thick with a universe of styles and genre hopping, it’s too easy to get caught up in the 15 minute album and it’s attached music video that plummets the listener into a dimension of Whack’s inner mind.

With each track clocking in at about a minute, Whack World is a fast-paced record that allows no lulls or distraction. The absurdly short songs are brilliant in their delivery, allowing Whack to showcase not only the stretches of her artistic genius but her musical talents in a chaotic package of organized mess. She can bounce between charged wordplay overtop 808 beats, easy drifting soul melodies, and quick-punching R&B in a minutes notice (literally). There’s even one transitional period that has Whack implementing an off-the-wall country twang that somehow works in a synth-pop setting.

As she told The NY Times, Whack World is a composition heavily inspired by the digital age. The 60-second tracks are very reminiscent of Instagram videos and teaser snippets that are just long enough to peak a listener’s interest. At only 22, Tierra Whack is a product of a generation that’s been conditioned to have short-attention spans and flares of boredom if things can’t hold our interest longer than the plethora of other things that distract in every day life. Instead of shying away from that audience, she embraces every part of her generation to make a statement and take your hand on a trip through her brain. She goes on to discuss the reality of producing a great hit, stating, “I’ll listen to a new song, and I only want to hear 30 seconds of it before I tell you, “Nope – Trash.” That’s the awareness that has led her to the clever structure of this record.

She isn’t wrong. The bulk of music fans are very rabidly apart of the digital culture. It’s almost impossible to keep someone’s attention throughout a full album’s work without losing steam this day and age. Whack’s biggest breakthrough is providing the meat of a song- getting straight to the beat’s drop, to the catchy hook, to the climax that other songs steadily build to. She wastes no time with an unnecessary foundation to Whack World’s 60-second tracks, diving straight into what keeps a listener tuned into a song.  

Regarding the music video, directed by Thibaut Ducerneix and Matthieu Léger, it is an explosion of color and personality shifts that solidify the vision of Whack World. 15 different environments transition throughout the video accompanied by the record’s 15 tracks, a world where taxidermied dogs get haircuts, one can dance with puppets in a graveyard, eat jewels off someone’s body like sushi, become a house with limbs, and work out in a muscle-suit surrounded by watermelons among other whimsical and ridiculously charming acts. It’s a look into the deeper psyche of not only Tierra Whack but the general human’s uncontrollable thoughts and creation that reside in the mind.

It shows how twisted and mad and beautifully theatrical a brain can be when it’s traveling down the trail of thoughts. Things are strange. They go up. They go down. They range from very mundane to very intense. Things trigger our fight or flight response. They can be calm or absolutely frightening. They don’t always feel good or they can be full of euphoric bliss. A mind is a mad, mad, sometimes wacky world. That’s the universe Whack created here, and at times the direction and visuals of the video sit too close for comfort and that’s exactly the point. It’s just as much an open-ride through who she is between the ears as it is about everyone’s personal worlds that they carry around 24/7.

This could easily be the step into the future of music. As albums and full-length pieces of work are beginning to lose their thunder, it’s much more difficult for an artist to create a cohesive and solid record that impacts an audience enough to stream or buy it in its entirety. With talks of singles and EPs being the face of music sooner rather than later due partially to the ever-changing interest and attention of the general listener, Tierra Whack has taken an interesting approach to her debut.   

Whack World isn’t just a collection of songs or another complicated concept album. It’s quick. It’s strange. It’s completely enthralling. It is a cinematic art piece full of eccentric colors and stylistic choices both in vision and audio. The record’s standout is it’s connectivity. The music is attached to the video’s world. It’s almost like one can’t listen to one without the other. The record is only the soundtrack to the film as the film is only the visuals to the soundtrack. With the decision to have such quick-paced, 60-second tracks, it leaves the listener with nothing to grow bored with. It keeps the audience intrigued by the opening track both in sound and in vision as it shifts between different situations and voices that are meant to be overdramatic and caricature in nature. It’s the very essence of what a musician’s artistic foundation should be, and Tierra Whack has proven singlehandedly that she creates art. She is a bonafide artist in every sense of the word. And as far as the album’s controversial future goes? She’s showing that the album can very well continue being a living and breathing entity to the music’s future. That, in itself, is a remarkable feat. So, pack a bag and take a vacation to her Whack World.

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