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$NOT’s ‘randomness is his superpower’ on ‘Ethereal’

“Ethereal – adj: extremely light and delicate, as if not of this world.”

Florida mosh-pit enthusiast $NOT‘s approach to his third studio album seemed to fit into its title perfectly on its intro “My World.”

Touting soft guitar strumming, toned-down “I shake, I shackle, I battle all my demons” rapping and calm claps on the beat, $NOT led fans in with a much more soothing approach than in years past. However, what he had in store after that, and throughout the rest of the project, left fans unprepared for what was next — in the best way possible.

The second song “Doja,” his explosive second promotional single, epitomized who $NOT is as an artist leading up to Ethereal, with a haunting melody and fiery beat drop. He establishes excellent chemistry with A$AP Rocky, whose verse on the back half of the track not only brings extra juice, as he flexes his “Army boots and army bomber jacket,” but shows just how far in the industry $NOT has come.

Rocky headlines a feature roster that only seemed possible due to the stature $NOT achieved heading into this album. Prior collaborations with fellow Floridians Cochise and Denzel Curry, along with Flo Milli, SSGKobe, iann dior and Lil Skies all passed with flying colors, thanks to $NOT’s growing, elite versatility. Whether it be a rage-filled banger or groovy, melodic cut, $NOT had become equipped to tackle any approach necessary.

Adding these skills to his arsenal is what makes Ethereal a rollercoaster ride of emotion and sonics, where the listener can only guess if they are going to turn up or hear stunning introspection when one song ends and another begins. Hopscotching from the downtrodden, guitar-aided fourth song “BLUE MOON” with Teddi Jones to the adrenaline rush of synth perfection on the fifth track and lead single “Go” keeps fans on their toes, something $NOT obviously took pride in when crafting this album.

In an interview with Complex soon after the Feb. 11 release of Ethereal, he compared it to Kanye West‘s album 808s & Heartbreak, because it deviated from fans’ expectation of him as an artist. “They’re expecting a sound that they followed me for,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Okay, he makes this type of music that I fuck with, so when he drops this album, it’s going to be this specific style.’ I made a whole different album, completely opposite of what they think. If I lose fans, I lose fans. It’ll gain whole new ones, and people will appreciate the sound that I showed. You don’t want to be in no box. Sometimes fans can put artists in boxes, and it will be the same people complaining about wanting different stuff.”

The aforementioned feature list enhanced his ability to break out of the stylistic box he felt trapped in. His growing friendship with BROCKHAMPTON frontman Kevin Abstract, who he collaborated with for the Summer 2021 bop “SLUGGER” with slowthai, helped bring a song like “EYE EYE EYE” to its full potential. $NOT’s confident flow and harmonizing over the quirky production in the song’s first half ushers in a trademark, unorthodox approach with several vocal inflections by Abstract at the end.

Auto-tuned, vibrant hooks offered by Trippie Redd, poised yet sensual bars by Juicy J and chip-on-shoulder rhymes by Joey Bada$$ all cater to the feature artist, but see $NOT match each atmosphere accordingly, which displays his capability to excel with any hip-hop related sound. Simply put, he was deep in a mixed bag on Ethereal.

Along with the sporadic sequencing of the project, the goofy and entertaining bars that $NOT fires off throughout show that he is still the same kid who blew up with “Gosha” (2018) and who loves to spit whatever comes to mind. No exaggeration, he spits literally whatever comes to mind. Whether it be his warranted, yet strangely placed KKK-hatred in his “EYE EYE EYE” verse, his “F**k n***a built like a bitch and a Skittle” line on “Go” or his affinity for black Chevy Tahoes on “high IQ” and “Euphoric,” $NOT’s randomness is his superpower.

Overall, Ethereal is a testament to $NOT’s expansive arsenal and how many different, compelling song styles he can tackle in 35 minutes. While there is something for every rap fan on this new project, there is also a clear evolution in who $NOT is as an artist — unbound by genre and unafraid to take risks.

Check out $NOT’s ‘Ethereal’ below!