Release Date: May 15, 2012
When Rye Rye first appeared, she seemed destined to explode — and she sort of did, briefly, bum-rushing the summer of 2007 with her frenetic, party-starting bounce anthem “Bang!” Wherein the artist born Ryeisha Barrain managed what seemed impossible at the time: She outshined M.I.A., who was sponsoring the 16-year-old’s alleged fast track to fame. Rye Rye was the perfect new female MC to furiously call us to the dance floor, with a flow that was pure Baltimore club — frantic and filthy. The first artist signed to Maya Arulpragasam’s then-fledgling N.E.E.T. label, she was poised to rise above the blog praise and evolve into a f’reals pop star.
And then: nothing. Or rather, little somethings. Cameos, remixes, and a track with Robyn. Songs from her permanently imminent debut album leaked intermittently to remind us of her existence (see the tepid M.I.A. co-cut “Sunshine”), though they were spread too far apart to stoke much belief that the album would ever actually exist, or that Rye Rye would ever decimate the competition like we’d originally hoped. Meanwhile, she became a mother, and Go! Pop! Bang! lingered on in limbo, its unveiling pushed off for two more years and only finally seeing proper release last week.
Five years is an epoch in pop years. A lot has happened in the world of avant-dance divadom since Rye Rye first came a-blazin’ across the Internet — Gaga, Nicki, that bewigged cataclysm known as Katy Perry — and consequently, Go! Pop! Bang! sounds like it was engineered to keep up with those ladies and their neon Ibiza dawnlight flexing. One imagines that some heavy-handed A&R tinkering went down once Ms. Minaj’s million-selling rapper-turned-pop star template was established. There’s no other way to explain a song like “D.N.A.,” a bit of buoyant ravey fluff sadly indistinguishable from any other chart pap pulsing out of the Claire’s down at the mall. Same for the Akon collab “Crazy Bitch,” which strikes an unfortunate balance between insipid and caustic; it unfurls like a bootleg Gnarls Barkley track, but Akon and Rye Rye play it like Sonny and Cher, trading corny lines (“She’s a crazy bitch, that’s why I love her!” “Yeah, that’s why he loves me!”) Not only are they crazy, but they’re crazy for each other, too! Awww!
Remarkably, in spite of this, the real Rye Rye still, occasionally, shines through. The Bangladesh-produced album opener “Drop” is nearly perfect, reminding us why we voted yes on this girl in the first place; her high, sharp voice cuts through the wumping sub-bass like an air-raid siren and stays perched atop the track through its various stylistic shifts: rapid-fire rhymes, breathless panting, staccato club chants. Rye Rye is now all of 21 years old, but she still sounds like a teenage commando, the unfuckwithable boss bitch of the 11th grade. When she raps, “Check the streets and my stats,” on “Holla Holla,” her swag isn’t mere braggadocio — she’s a girl who knows full well she’s the shit.
The missteps on Go! Pop! Bang! aren’t hers — they’re remnants of the mistaken, industry idea that she needs help from anyone. Really, all it takes is a mic and a few bombastic 808s for her to shine. If anything, the album’s cash-in cameos sink rather than buoy the album (sorry, M.I.A.!), only underscoring how energetic and fun Rye Rye is by comparison — even when she rides the Robyn-helmed rave thunder of “Never Will Be Mine (R3Hab remix).”
The percolating ’80s electro-pump of “Boom Boom,” where she suggests that her dream date involves watching porn and laying in the grass looking at the sky, is the best example of why everyone should just step back and let the girl do her thing. Rye Rye is bound to wreck your body while she turns the party out — all she needs is a little room.