FearDorian’s debut album mines rap gold from young strife

FearDorian. Photo via publicist.


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If you want to ruin your day, flip through your old high school notebooks. How many deformed Dragon Ball Z characters are there in the margins? Can you bear to read the verses you wrote after you first heard J. Cole’s “Wet Dreamz” and thought that kind of thing was acceptable? These years in our lives are supposed to be when we’re wet clay beginning to be molded; But FearDorian, a 17-year-old artist from Atlanta, is spending his school year as a statue in rap’s crowded underground.

FearDorian’s self-titled debut album, released last week, arrived after a banner year producing beats. His instrumentals are favored by emerging rappers who have generated a considerable amount of motion: xaviersobased, quinn, Polo Perks, 454, Babyxsosa, YhapoJJ, and AyooLii have all enlisted FearDorian over the past 12 months. The versatility of the instrumentals is impressive — Dorian has helped steer the sound of nu-jerk, post-tread, and sample drill — but what defines them is Dorian’s ceaseless search for pretty melodies. Whether it’s in a pitched-up snippet of an indie-pop song or deep in the dark plugg bog, a FearDorian beat always contains at least one moment of beauty to soften your screwed-up face.

The beats of FearDorian triple down on this tendency. They channel the cloud rap of yesteryear, tapping obscure samples and teasing moments of unexpected beauty with a new glossy polish. It’s a keen step for an album of such raw emotion; across the project, Dorian reckons with many of the same agonies other teenagers his age deal with while noting how his nascent music career exacerbates them. “Cut a few off so my friends look different / And I’m passin’ them up but they scared to admit it,” he raps in a haggard monotone on “Highschool” as angelic piano keys twinkle.

Abandonment is a recurring theme in Dorian’s raps, whether it’s from a parent or a friend. On “Can’t Cry,” another highlight from the album, Dorian raps about his absent father, present blessings, and future ambitions: “Hardships ain’t forever, man, that shit’s a season / And I gotta keep my head straight, that’s my only weakness.” The hard-earned wisdom is all the more tragic considering he only recently became old enough to drive. His voice on the album is weary, and vocal effects are almost entirely absent, bringing a deep, documentary-like grit to the songs. Like the best rapper/producers, FearDorian is as interested in creating a vibe as he is in being truly heard.