The stretch of time between about 2009 and 2012 marked a very dark time in rap, and it’s not because of stereotypical scapegoats like lyrics, the myth of creativity, or the genre’s lack of social responsibility. The years marked the dawn of a hip-hop fanatic’s audio purgatory known as frat-rap (a.k.a. cool kids rap, bro rap, or shit by this writer), a subgenre led by “pioneers” Chiddy Bang, Asher Roth, Hoodie Allen, Mac Miller, and Childish Gambino (who’s the standout of the bunch, but that isn’t saying much). The genre may have damned the word “unique” to an existence as another colorless, throwaway descriptor, as it was too often used to champion a genre whose left field swerve from the typical rap narrative was marked by odd, obnoxious sampling, unambitious rhyming, and an unashamedly shallow worldview. The worst part is these artists’ main appeal: They’re relatable. So, many wound up thinking, Hey, these guys can rap, and they’re just like me, bro!
Aer does one-up a majority of these artists because the duo drops this facade of “uniqueness” as quality and gets to what’s really at the heart of the matter: cheap beer (“Say She Loves Me”), failed relationships (“I’m Not Sorry), “David Bowie T-Shirts”, and perhaps even the meaning of life (“Spades, Clubs & Diamonds”). The duo’s delivery is formulaic — simplistic even — but this self-titled album is, at the very least, pleasing to the ear, unlike the aural bombardment of albums like Camp and Breakfast. The guitar riff on opener “Spades, Clubs & Diamonds” isn’t mind-altering, but the journeyman nature of that wah-wah effect is a nice juxtaposition to Aer’s lyrical campiness. The zipping synth line on “Sincerely” is a decent changeup as well.
Aer is thankfully straightforward and essentially about vibes, but the middling self-titled effort suffers from one major downfall, and it’s a simple one, too. A majority of frat-rap is disposable, but they did manage to capture a moment in time thanks to pockets of cathartic releases. To put it bluntly, Aer isn’t that exciting. The instrumentals are fine, and the vocal work of David von Mering and Carter Schultz is digestible, but competency isn’t compelling. Aer isn’t retrograde, but if it isn’t urgent enough to appeal to the ADHD era college crowd or takes itself seriously enough to perk the ears of hip-hop nerds, on exactly whose ears does it fall upon?
Essential Tracks: “Spades, Clubs & Diamonds”