ian Hits The Mainstream with ‘Figure It Out’ [Album Review]

Vincent Merry

Underground sensation ian is "speed-running" his way to viral fame on TikTok. His debut album, Valedictorian, captures the new-wave rage sound that has dominated the hip-hop underground since 2021, infused with ian’s catchy one-liners that resonate with listeners.

Although he began making music in 2022, ian (along with his team) has taken the first half of 2024 by storm, leveraging the surprise of new listeners with the reaction, “This guy makes this kind of music?!” Initially, TikTok engagement focused on his perceived lack of “aura," with ian appearing slightly uncomfortable and out of his element in videos, but he has since built a rapidly expanding fanbase.

Valedictorian is a brief yet impactful listen, featuring 10 tracks that span a swift 19 minutes, with each song leaving a lasting impression without overstaying its welcome.

The teased snippet "Never Stop" boosted the popularity of the full song on the album. With string plucks and shimmering synths, ian creates a phenomenal atmosphere for the incredibly catchy hook: "You just gotta trust what's goin' on inside yo' gut / 'Cause they gon' try to tell you it's a problem when it's not."

"Bentayga" introduces deep 808s into the mix, while "AirBnB" features instrumental plucks reminiscent of early trap, a la Chief Keef. "Hermes Sheets" switches to dry rimshots, giving the track a raw, distinct feel.

On "Chauncey," ian delivers his most confident lyrical performance, “I went and studded this brand new watch so much, I can't tell the God damn time.” A faster flow, an array of distorted synths, and a few cowbells make this track a standout highlight.

Singles "Grand Slam" and "Figure It Out" close the album. "Grand Slam’s" instrumental is particularly similar to contemporary Yeat, with distorted adlibs and gliding synths. While "Figure It Out" may not introduce anything especially new or innovative, it excels with arpeggiator synths, thumping drums, and catchy vocal cadences, forming the perfect formula for an underground rap hit. The fun lyrics include, “Can't choose what color I'm feelin' today, thank God it's a two-tone watch [...] My big brother like Marshawn Lynch, he'll run through somebody,” with Marshawn Lynch also featured in the Lyrical Lemonade video for the track.

In a world filled with hour-long mixtapes and 25+ song tracklists (often padded with filler tracks), ‘Valedictorian’ is a breath of fresh air. ian captivates listeners already attuned to this sound and scene, and we eagerly anticipate the evolution of his music in the future.

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