Thaiboy Digital is an underdog’s underdog. The Bangkok-based rapper (aka Thanapat Bunleang) made his mark as a member of Sweden’s Drain Gang, dropping digitally dissociated anthems alongside his comrades Bladee and Ecco2k, however his deportation from Stockholm to Bangkok in 2015 left him sidelined through the group’s regular rise. Even from a distance, although, Thaiboy has claimed his place within the Drain Gang holy trinity. He could also be much less overtly experimental than his friends—his extra simple hip-hop sound sits someplace between Ecco2k’s dreamy cloud crooning and Bladee’s sadboy swagger—however he’s made up for it along with his clean, silvery stream, a eager ear for infectious ad-libs, and the open-hearted sincerity he brings to his songs. His debut album, 2019’s Legendary Member, is among the collective’s tightest releases; its pillow-soft beats and heavenly bangers lower to the core of what makes Drain Gang’s universe so mesmerizing.
This has been a giant yr for Drain Gang, who’ve dropped a string of acclaimed albums and toured the world. After a fallow couple of years, Thaiboy lastly reappeared and threw his hat into the ring as effectively: Launched earlier this yr, his single “I’m Fresh” is an ecstatic, 99-second lo-fi sugar excessive whose drill-inspired rhythm and hypnotically repeated titular phrase make for a blissed-out—and hilarious—hypebeast self-affirmation. However on Again 2 Life, his first album in three years, that very same vitality is nowhere to be discovered. The place singles like “I’m Recent” and even 2020’s “Yin & Yang” dissolved Thaiboy’s feel-good flexing into an ethereal haze, Again 2 Life takes zero inventive probabilities, settling right into a monotonous procession of uninspired verses and floaty entice instrumentals that sound like the results of plugging “Yung Lean” into an AI beat generator. It’s an enormous missed alternative to indicate simply what Thaiboy brings to the Drainer empire, and as a lot as you need to root for him, there’s little purpose to succeed in for Again 2 Life over every other Drain Gang launch.
The guiding arc of Again 2 Life follows Thaiboy’s return to the music world after a quiet few years, and even in spite of everything this time, it’s clear that being separated from his crew has taken an immense psychic toll. “I had my coronary heart flip chilly for likе seven years,” he declares on the opening “Dreamworld,” over a piano mattress straight out of Kingdom Hearts. The phrase “seven years” repeats like a mournful mantra all through the album, suggesting his willpower to make up for misplaced time. Sadly, the music doesn’t present that very same conviction. Many of the trance-inspired beats on the album come from Loesoe of “Miss The Rage” fame, and whereas he delivers on Thaiboy’s proclaimed goal of evoking “Future on a legendary DJ Tiësto tune,” the sluggish, repetitive tempos and spacey samples are extra tedious than transcendental. “Angel” opens on a dystopian synth tone that feels as if it would lead someplace epic however leads to cloying traces about “tears flowing downstream” and generic paeans to his spouse (together with a very goofy refrain: “Solely your lips I need to kiss/I by no means miss/Just one kiss, I enter the bliss”). Whereas this fearless embrace of tacky sentimentality is a large ingredient of what makes Drain Gang particular, it solely works when wrapped up in forward-thinking manufacturing and imaginative lyrics. With out both, it’s laborious to purchase into these songs as any form of real emotional launch.