It would be easy to jump to assumptions about what Charlotte rapper Well$ meant when he titled his newest album The Way I'm Living Makes My Mom Nervous, especially with a quick glance at the CD cover.
Might his mom be made nervous by the underdressed woman with eyes on her son? Or perhaps by the guy passed out with an assault rifle near the front of the room?
You can't judge a book — or album — by its cover, however. A quick listen gives a better glimpse of the anxieties felt by the woman who brought her son to America with dreams of higher education and a stable job only to watch him drop school and gamble on the music business.
The way things are looking — and sounding — for Well$, it just might pay off.
The Way I'm Living is the follow-up to Well$'s 2014 debut, MTSYD: The Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher, an album that placed him on the Billboard charts and introduced his dark but witty style to rap fans in Charlotte and beyond.
According to Well$, the new album is about completing his adaptation to life in America and going for broke by striking out on his own. He dropped out of high school and left home on bad terms at the age of 17, and has been doing his own thing ever since. This album is meant to touch on why, despite that being the right choice for him, to his mother, it was unfathomable.
"With MTSYD, I was speaking from the perspective of an African kid living as an American. Now, with [The Way I'm Living], I'm speaking about how my American upbringing clashes with my African values," Well$ says. "The way it makes my mom nervous because I chose the opposite path that they had wanted for me."
As for the album, it's directly following the conversation with his mother on "Lessons Interlude" that things start to fall in place, ironically enough.
While the first half of the album is hot enough on its own, it's in the second half, beginning with "Lessons", where one finds the most polished pieces, both lyrically and rhythmically.
That fact is helped along by the appearance of Metro Boomin — yes, from "If Young Metro don't trust ya" — on "Heaven's Doors", one of the most darkly intense but strangely uplifting songs on the album.
However, even without Metro, North Carolina shines on the rest of the album. Well$ brought on NC rappers like Deniro Ferrar (Charlotte), JK the Reaper (Greensboro) and even brought along Durham-based indie-pop duo Sylvan Esso for a track.
He still hasn't forgotten where he came from though, as South African rapper/producer and Immaculate Taste labelmate Sipho the Gift makes an appearance on the boards and on the mic.
All in all, the album is a great mix of introspection and bipolar fury that's reminiscent of if Childish Gambino had zero fucks left to give.
I recommend it, but you should buy the album regardless just to let this man's mom breathe a little easier.