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Baauer’s name has for some time been synonymous with a certain tune titled Harlem Shake. The American trap and bass producer has undoubtedly spent the last four years living and making music in the shadow of his monumentally huge 2012 hit. To put the immense popularity of the track that inspired a viral YouTube movement into perspective, off the back of Harlem Shake Baauer became the first artist to sustain 30 million streams a week for three weeks, and as a result the Billboard top 100 began including streaming figures for the first time.
‘Aa’, which is pronounced ‘double a’, is Baauer’s debut LP, and with it he has finally emerged from the shadow of Harlem Shake. This 13-track album is the result of years of hard slog and includes some epic collaborations with the likes of Novelist, Tirzah, M.I.A., G-DRAGON and Pusha T, just to name a few.
Aa includes plenty of what Baauer is known best for. Ear-shattering bass and dank drops are plentiful, but this album also shows a less-explored side of the American trap producer. Included are several much softer tracks that often exist almost as pure transitions from between sections of the album, and also serve to break up the heaviness that can often come with an LP featuring a lot of trap and bass. Several tracks are each only just over a minute long and definitely don’t fit any normal genre conventions of a radio-friendly song.
As mentioned, the use of such shorter, lighter tracks give the album a lot of shape and structure. They space out the rest of longer tunes on the record, which in turn explore a variety of different world styles of trap and bass. We are eased into proceedings with the first track on the album, the ethereal and spacey Church. The dense centre of the album is broken up with Good & Bad which is a tune that slow builds on a single vocal sample, and despite the introduction of pulsating bass later in the mix, definitely relaxes listeners briefly before finishing at its loudest and most climactic point. We then hear a reprise of Church featuring Rustie, before the outro and title track Aa finishes off the album with what almost feels like a random minute of samples and effects, followed by ambient sound.
There’s plenty of the jaw-dropping trap that we’ve come to know and love from Baauer, including his 2015 hit track GoGo. The fifth track on the album is called Sow, and has perhaps the grimiest bassline on the record. This bass creates a super funky feel to the track, especially when contrasted with the higher pitched voice samples in the mix, and right at the end a short Tetris sample because why the hell not. Other tracks of note include perfectly EQ’d bangers featuring a plethora of vocalists and vocal styles, including Kung Fu, Day Ones and Way From Here, on which Baauer features each of his collaborators perfectly.
Out of all of these collabs though, the highlight has to be Temple which features M.I A. and G-DRAGON. Temple starts with a weird vocal intro that situates you within the temple itself, complete with bird and animal sound effects. It’s the sort of track that immediately screams M.I.A. and features her typical pentatonic tonalities whilst maintaining a constantly dense texture, thanks to what must be just about the deepest bass sample on the whole album. Aptly it is completed with 20 seconds of more jungle samples.