Sleep Paralysis

Four years since she announced she was quitting, the Chattanooga-born rapper is badder and bolder than ever, finds Arusa Qureshi

When bbymutha unveiled her twenty-five-track debut album Muthaland in 2020, she simultaneously declared that it would be her last official release. Following the record’s celebrated arrival, she wrote on Twitter: “fuck this shit. its way too stressful for no fucking reason.” And with that, we could have had both the beginning and end of bbymutha. But as an artist with such natural charisma and flair, the Chattanooga rapper thankfully wasn’t absent for long, going on to release a steady stream of EPs, starting with Muthaleficient 2 in March 2021. What followed was a gradual strengthening and reinforcing of her ​​Southern rap ingenuity, bolstered by frank and confessional takes on sex, trauma and lived experience.

Now, in 2024, we’re getting the next chapter in the bbymutha journey with Sleep Paralysis, an album that propels the rapper forward, while casting an eye back to childhood memories enveloped by sleeplessness and ensuing turbulence. Sonically, Sleep Paralysis diverges from bbymutha’s trademark expression, but only in its added sprinkling of 90s UK garage and dance, the inspiration for which came from her time spent on tour in the UK post-lockdown.

Tracks like ‘piss!’ and ‘tony hawk’ centre on a grinding garage breakbeat, ticking along under bbymutha’s confident Southern drawl, while the ominous melodies of ‘rich’ help to stretch out her incisive flow. Her lyricism is consistently playful and bold, best exemplified on the album’s mischievous finale ‘go!’ which sees her giving listeners a peek into her thoughts on intimacy and attachment. Elsewhere, ‘lines’ takes you on a trip with its hallucinatory delivery, perhaps an attempt to properly illustrate the feeling that comes with sleep paralysis. Likewise, ‘ghostface’ is cosmic and otherworldly, the track’s dissonant synth chords adding a sinister feel alongside bbymutha’s repeated assertion of “I’m the type of bitch you gotta kill me twice”.

Opener ‘gun kontrol’, which also offered the first taste of the album in 2023, acts like the foreword to this new era of bbymutha, its heavy 808s and fidgeting synths illuminating a sense of freedom, highlighted by bbymutha’s affirmations of “Yeah I do whatever I want” at the turn of each phrase. It’s a mantra that flows right through Sleep Paralysis, underlined by the UK-influence in the production as well as in the use of beats from nine different electronic producers, such as Foisey, Bon Music Vision and Kilde. This combination of regional soundscapes is an undeniable winner here, not least because it draws attention to bbymutha’s ability to play with style and form, but also because it accentuates her unrestrained experiments in what rap can and should do.

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