Issa Rae plays chess. Besides knowing how to write characters that speak to the modern millennial in the realest way on television for the past five years, her ear for music that matches that spirit has been her secondary superpower. Her first gambit was including music luminaries Raphael Saadiq and Solange for musical direction on earlier seasons of the show because, you know, she can’t do it all alone. But her checkmate was forming Raedio, her own company to oversee song selection for episodes of not only Insecure but many of your other favorite shows. On the soundtrack for the final season, Insecure: Music From The HBO Original Series, Season 5, Raedio flexes their ability to create a lineup and sequence as good as DJ Khaled, without the annoying shout-outs.
Boasting a mix of well-known and relatively fresh, new performers, the album starts with its biggest feature in the form of Saweetie’s “Get It Girl” – a lively, Bay Area bop over 2 Live Crew sample and a hard, low piano riff by Nathan Smith and Lil Jon that keeps it simple but catchy. Saweetie being the lead on an Insecure soundtrack, the final one at that, makes the utmost sense when considering Issa Rae’s penchant for incorporating infectious, hyperbolically ratchet, mostly female rap anthems that are easy to sing along to in all of her shows. Saweetie’s typical style matches this feel perfectly as she recites, “I don’t chase no man, that don’t make no sense / She a bourgie ghetto girl, so they mad b***h, and? / If you got a problem with it you can come and get the hands!”
The other two predominantly rap songs on the collection follow a similar mold of sounding as if they were almost made for the quick 30-second spots that most songs get on Insecure in between aerial shots of Los Angeles, with their most attention-grabbing lyrics highlighted. The tracks “50 Lem Hunnits” (Akeem Ali, Jorge Amadeus) and “Fantasy” (Amindi, Kiah Victoria, Ace Henderson) both featuring 27Delly and production from L3gion, each sound a bit contrived with tongue-in-cheek one-liners that risk generating side-eyes like the former’s hook, “If she brown, I know what she D’usse / I give her HD, Blu-ray” and the latter’s “New hair on, but not Gil Scott.”
This opens the door to the other issue presented by this project if you choose to view it that way. Issa Rae knows her audience. While the show is geared towards 30-somethings or those on the precipice of 30, the soundtrack – in its endeavor to introduce fresh, edgy new music – skews slightly younger. This, therefore, leaves a third of the soundtrack full of music that is more defined as being a hybrid style of rap-sung material. This means songs like b.k. habermehl’s “Time Off” and Raedio artist TeaMarr’s “Pipe Dreams,” where she over-uses Harry Potter references to describe sex, miss their mark, among other tracks.
While contributions from Drew Love ("Snoring") and Mereba ("Glock Peaceful") try to introduce soul into the content, the album doesn’t quite traverse into any traditional musical space until the ballads "Fun" by Nnena and “What’s The Use” by Josh Levi and the ironically titled “Mad B***hes” by Mikhala Jené and Ro James, where the singers croon and deliver emotion.
Stand-out cuts like “Seein Ya” by Jesse Boykins III, DUCKWRTH and Ambré and Thundercat, Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi’s “Satellite” provide unexpected deviation into uptempo house-funk territory provided by ESTA. and Mack Keane and space groove vibes by Thundercat, respectively.
With various producers and performers, Insecure's final soundtrack is sure to have something for everyone, especially if you can connect the tunes to memorable scenes from this farewell season. Whether you’re 30 and over or 30 and under, moods will surely be matched. And speaking of a match, Issa the chess master just punched the clock on us all to remind us that time is up for the show, but the feels last as long as you want them to.- Advertisement -
Raedio Insecure: Music From The HBO Original Series, Season 5 [Amazon][Apple Music]