Joe West Is “Him”

Aggressively pushing out of the abysmal silence with growling bass tones and a seething synthetic beat that will be pushed to the very brink of destruction, Joe West’s “Him” wastes no time in wrapping around us as tightly as possible to force all of its physicality and boisterous brawn upon us in one fell swoop.

Nothing is getting between West and his goal in this track, and I would even go as far as to say that for this being his latest release, it sounds much more like the work of a skilled unknown with years of studio experience still ahead of him (in a good way, of course). He slashes through the bands of rhythm and harmony with an angst-ridden lyrical wit that is startlingly refreshing, wholly embracive of experimental themes, and quite charming when paired with the moderate trap vibe of the nearby melody.

“Him” is an unusually simple song that contains more than one facet of eclecticism in action, but beyond its stately arrangement and one-of-a-kind stylization lies a familiarity that makes it an instant hit single this summer

This hook is quite reminiscent of a Bronx-style melodicism best embodied in the works of the classics, but the hook here is undeniably as progressive as they come. There’s a strange tethering between the surreal hip-hop sounds of 2023 and the classic bass-heavy push of the late ‘80s underground, and yet it’s not the main focus of our attention in “Him” – that belongs to the interplay between the low-end textures and the thrusting percussion.

Their chemistry makes the entire backend of the song sound and feels like something off of a gangster soundtrack, only sans the indulgent and needlessly violent lyrical content. There are a lot of tangible emotions being exchanged in the verses that West is singing and rapping to us, and even at his most indulgent, that emotionality never completely departs from our view. He’s the real article, and if that’s what he was trying to inform all of us, critics and fans of smart hip-hop alike, with the release of this track, then to say that he did a good job would be a rather grand understatement indeed. 

It’s a sensuous release that is admittedly a little rough around the edges, and from where I sit I would deem Joe West’s “Him” one of the best songs of its kind to make the headlines this July. “I’m Him” takes elements of a conflicted tonality and boldly fuses them, and instead of sounding like an overthought melting pot of melody, melancholic retrospection, and mighty hip-hop basslines, it’s postmodern, focused, and inspiring when you isolate its most important components from each other. It’s exactly what was missing from the indie rap spectrum this month, and with any luck, it won’t be the only track that we hear from West before the year is over. In this business, you have to strike while the iron is hot, and his is rivaling the core temperature of the hottest channels in the underground right now. 

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