jaydes references the online and regional rap sounds of the 2010s like a daily poster in a niche hip-hop Discord community, the type who nitpicks small moments in seemingly inconsequential songs and fantasizes about what they would do if they were their favorite rappers. Last summer, the Broward County teen released his breakout mixtape heartpacing, which rewired plugg by pairing emo croons with the lush, blissed-out production typical of the style. His newest project Ghetto Cupid ambitiously tries to pull more musical strands together, from the layered guitars of shoegaze to the faded and cloudy murmurs of Lucki songs. It’s messy, but it works more often than not.
Over 17 tracks, a majority of which are credited to the pseudonym yen (it’s confusing because there aren’t any noticeable differences between yen and jaydes but just rock with it), jaydes layers soft, lovelorn melodies over a wide range of beats. His raw lilts evoke XXXTentaction’s tortured balladry, but jaydes songs are not nearly as heavy; they’re gloomy but in a bored teenager kind of way. When jaydes delivers his most melancholic lines, he usually follows up with a fun detail that feels retooled from rap of the recent past. “Sometimes I would rather be alone/Sometimes I stay off of my phones/Sometimes I wonder if she the one,” he sings almost unemotionally on “let me b,” which is then immediately followed up with a Carti-like vomiting ad-lib as if he’s disgusted by his own corniness.
jaydes is a decent writer, but his songs are more about mood, his forlornness felt even when he’s not saying a whole lot. Brief bits add texture to the melodrama: the exasperated lip flap at the beginning of “Undercover,” or the spammed producer tag—“you have no heart”—on “Horror,” repeated to the point that it sounds he’s channeling some sort of Candyman-esque spirit. I like when he gets swamped by the instrumental, for example on the blurry “Fallen”—produced by marcusbasquiat, who was behind the boards on a couple of the most desolate-sounding Lucki cult favorites—or the blaring shoegaze intro “Rose.” On both, he sounds lost, fighting to be heard through all the distortion and mayhem.
But the other guitar-driven joints on Ghetto Cupid—he flips Weezer on “Misery,” for example—are too on the nose. I get it—he wants to make sure we know that his influences go beyond rap. But the appeal of his music is that he applies the sort of sentimental sing-rapping usually done on GothBoiClique-type beats to production with a Southern flair. Listen to how much more singular he sounds over plugg, his bread and butter. Usually plugg sounds kind of dreamy, but he gives it a vulnerability that I associate more with Florida pain rap in the mold of Lil Poppa or T9ine. Only someone as tapped in as jaydes could make the emotional tweaks on the fluttering “<3,” the twitchy “Witchy Bitchy,” or mellow “Damage” sound right.