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  • The Prattler

Bladee, Worldbuilding, and the Dilemma of Changing Direction

It’s August. I’m lying in my childhood bedroom listening to Bladee lightly rhyme over a sparse yet beautiful piano track alongside Yung Lean. “Victorious” dropped as a surprise, making its way to my ears by way of an Instagram post. The song is an understated celebration, a melodic humble brag about how far each of them have come. 

I think about how far Bladee has come, too, how much his music has evolved from projects like “Eversince” to now. The Swedish rapper began making music in 2011 at age 17, founded Drain Gang with Ecco2k and Thaiboy Digital in 2013, and worked alongside a freshly viral Yung Lean. Bladee, or Benjamin Reichwald, has since been a staple innovator in experimental hiphop, pioneering his own category of genre-defying “drain” music.

Bladee’s early work favored vampy, esoteric lyricism and melancholically spacey, synth-heavy beats. His sonic aesthetic was mirrored visually through his album art, music videos, and social media presence, alltogether creating his own dystopian world. However, his newer releases have shown a shift. His delivery is lighter, his production more whimsical and upbeat, his lyrics happier. God and light are referenced more often than death and cut wrists. Bladee’s visual aesthetic has also shifted, now more closely resembling something out of a fairytale than a found-footage horror film.

Characteristically elusive and generally interview-avoidant, Bladee has never explained what inspired this change. I can only venture to guess that developments in his personal life had something to do with it. Being a teen in quiet, gloomy Stockholm is worlds away from being a globally successful (albeit niche) musician, selling out tours, and partnering with Marc Jacobs.

Whatever the case, not all are pleased with Bladee’s change in aesthetic. Many early followers of Bladee have expressed their disappointment in his newer releases.

“The old shit was hard when he was actually rapping. For years it’s just sounded like fairy twink meme music for 15 year olds in oversized Minecraft shirts and girls in new rock boots,” a ktt2 music forum user posted in August. Most criticism from self-proclaimed “OG fans” turned critics is similar – Bladee was cool back then, but now he’s cringe.

Those who criticize Bladee’s turn to utopian whimsy are the ones who originally fell in love with his dystopia; and I can't fully blame them. Listening to tracks from “Eversince” is cathartic in an indescribable way. I can see why fans of Bladee’s early work feel betrayed by his new sound; there’s a certain sense of abandonment when watching someone outgrow their suffering while you're still in the thick of it.

While there’s no doubt that Bladee’s early work is seminal, the iconicness of his past work shouldn’t overshadow the value of his current work. Bladee has never conformed to standards, and that still hasn’t changed. Although he has completed an almost full 180 degree change throughout his career, worldbuilding is still his strong suit. Bladee’s shift from dystopia to utopia is not a betrayal of his past art, it’s a renaissance. 


Art by Andrea Lastimosa


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