Throughout the majority of his early career, Florida rapper Wifisfuneral found solace in the darkness.
While critically divisive, his mixtape anthology was muddied and murky, bogged down by the mental illness and drug addiction that nearly took Isaiah Rivera’s life. “Get this weight off me,” he says, exhausted on 2018’s “Loading Withdrawals.” “I’ve been itchin” for a fixin come get this weight off me.” Those who have pushed back against addiction can relate to Wifi’s self-beratement. There’s no poetic way to describe the agony of withdrawal; it just f*cking sucks. “Which one of y’all get it?” he asks his listeners bluntly on 2019’s “All Bones (Intro).”
Communicating raw pain has always been Wifi’s biggest strength, and his nihilistic music has never been for everyone. Wifi’s best moments (“Ever Seen a Demon,” “25 Lighters”) are when he balances his trauma with self-deprecating fanfare, like he’s got cold sweats and nausea on the way to the club. At his worst, Wifi sounds like he’s drowning in his own noise.
It’s a niche concoction, but when it works, it elevates Wifi from a meager Soundcloud act to some sort of druggy prophet. He’s been to hell and seen the darkest sides of addiction and depression, and he both tells you to stay away while beckoning you closer. But on PAIN?, the emcee’s debut album, he switches his dependency on drugs–the emcee has been sober from cocaine and pills for years, though admits he still drinks and smokes–for dependence on love, with a collection of tracks that are mostly stale and forgettable.
Wifisfuneral – Lost In Time feat. Coi Leray (Official Video)
That’s not to say PAIN? Is without its highlights. Opener “Lost in Time” boasts a well-placed feature from Boston rapper Coi Leray and finds the emcee traversing new melodic territory, positioning himself as an emo crooner more than a rapper. But the promising experimentation doesn’t carry into the rest of the project. On attempted club hits like “Back Ache,” the rapper sounds confined to the sound of 2010 mumble rap, a genre that no longer suits him but that he, for some reason, feels a need to resurrect anyway.
Wifi’s previously faced copy-cat accusations due to sounding like the rappers he’s plucked inspiration from rather than incorporating their vibes into something inherently his, and the same allegations carry weight at certain moments on PAIN? He sounds like Juice Wrld on “Take Me Away” and channels the melodic trap of Lil Durk and NBA Youngboy on “Guy Like Me.” He wears his idols on his sleeve, and while it makes for a flattering ode, it further dilutes Wifi’s identity.
What is it like being an addict in COVID’s 2020? What are the struggles that come with forced isolation? Where does Wifi see his career heading now that the world is closed? Deep questions like these are often left unanswered, substituted for watered-down flexes like “Knock a rapper top right off the top like he Mick Foley.”
PAIN? won’t quell the naysayers who wrote Wifi off as a 2010 Soundcloud rapper, but the project offers sprinkles of promise. He is very much an artist in motion, learning how to navigate an industry that he’s never truly understood and figuring out who he is without the pills. “Never cared where I was, I was lost in hell,” he says matter-of-factly on “Screw Up.” Now that he’s clean and sober, he’s learning to care and is traversing his way to the next chapter of his career, whatever that might be.
Regardless, PAIN? Isn’t quite that next step and finds Wifi hanging onto a vibe that he doesn’t fit into anymore. Once he opens up and learns to let go, he may finally become the artist he wants to be.