Blacktown rapper Isaac Puerile’s latest music video is a masterpiece of eshay realism. With ‘2012’, he’s once again proved himself as one of the most interesting and gifted artists in the Australian scene.
The video’s director Joe Plumb brings the aesthetic detail and snappy editing of an indie film to a day in the life of teenage Isaac. It’s cool to see such reverential depictions of things like dackin’ Cheetos from a convenience store and writing graffiti under a train line overpass. It’s honest but non-judgmental; beautiful yet bleak.
Puerile is a star. There’s just something magnetic about him. Is it his eyes? The intensity with which he smokes a cigarette? He has a big heart to balance his simmering intensity and reckless confidence – like he could explode at any minute just for the fun of it. His music gives a voice to the kids most people avoid eye contact with at the train station, and his music often shows the recklessness and hopelessness of a kid growing up with no self-worth.
On ‘2012’ he’s channeling the carefree swagger of his 14-year-old self and reflecting on how far he’s come. It’s one of the many tracks Isaac produces himself and it kinda sounds like a distorted music box sample over a spacious but bumpin’ beat. He comes in effortlessly – like he’s barely trying, and, while I always prefer an attention-grabbing opening line, I still enjoy this simple opener: it situates us in Blacktown, his flow suits the beat perfectly and the detail comes eventually. Pepper it with some pig-latin, throw in a catchy hook delivered in his unusually appealing singing voice and you’ve got a sick song, but not one that reflects his full range.
Isaac has experimented with a number of styles over his short career and has generally been a pioneer of an Australian version of ‘Soundcloud rap’ – a weirdly named and loosely defined movement of lo-fi music that often experiments with wildly distorted bass and unpolished, DGAF rapping. I have a lot of respect for folks who spend hours digging on SoundCloud – because there is so much treasure to be found – but I can’t claim to be one of them. To me, most of the songs are trying to sound like a Lil Peep song, a XXXTentacion song or a Denzel Curry song. Some of Isaac’s music could fit into these categories but few are making it as well as him. What he shares with these Soundcloud inspirations is an appetite for filthy 808s, a devotion to raw raps about mental health and an ability to experiment with his voice. On top of this, the dude just seems to understand what makes a good rapper; he doesn’t waste bars and his music captures his personality, his pain and his people. His second most recent single ‘BREAD & WATER’ provides a perfect example:
’06 ate nothin’ but lentils
8 years old wrote songs in pencil
10, when your mum there left you
Been 10 years and she still ain’t text you
14 on the drugs went mental
Pops said don’t die now, god sent you
Don’t go there dogs might fetch you
Don’t come home or the DOCS might get you’
He fits a devastating portrait of his whole childhood into eight bars of a song that would already be a massive banger without the interesting lyrics. He can make grimy street rap that doesn’t try disguise what Australian street shit actually is e.g. steak knife stabbings, avoiding sniffer dogs and door-stepping cunts for their Nikes. I think he sounds better with the more calm, bossed-up delivery than the more aggressive style and the shouted vocals on the chorus here are a perfect medium. On his latest EP ‘Last Year‘ – a five-piece compilation of songs he made last year – he’s finding the right balance of Soundcloud banger intensity and thoughtful songwriting to make him a truly elite rapper.
‘Lightwork’ is like the musical equivalent of a front-rower on way too much pre-workout trying to paralyse the entire defensive line on the first hit-up of a footy game. Then he backs it up with two more hit-ups before an RnB cool-down. It’s a beautiful thing to hear an up-and-coming rapper like Isaac – looked down upon his whole life – with a bitta oshday in his pocket, hungry for more just really flexin’ on a bunch of absolute slappers cause he finally does feel like that cunt. The standout is the softer closer ‘She Said’, where he raps a lengthy verse from the perspective of his fed-up girlfriend to paint the picture of a relationship on the verge of crumbling. The beat is light and dreamy with a fuzzy oomph and the hook is another example of his weird but satisfying singing voice. It’s kinda goofy at first but I keep walking ’round singing: ‘I ain’t supposed to feel the way I doooooo, about youuuuu’. The character and sincerity of his voice make it work.
His ability to write about his girlfriend’s feelings in the same detail as his own reflects the ’emo’tional intelligence that allows him to make exceptionally good ‘emo’ rap in the vein of Lil Peep. Lil Peep’s music resonated profoundly with so many people for its fusion of emo and rap aesthetics and his intensely honest lyrics about suicide, depression and drugs. The trap that a lot of emo rappers fall into is indulging their narcissistic self-pity with shallow references to suicide, depression and drugs rather than substantiating how they feel and what their girlfriend did to them that’s so horrible. Which is fine for a lot of people who are more about the ~vibes~ but it just leads to heaps of lazy Lil Peep/Juice Wrld rip offs. The genre of emo rap could be so much more interesting if it’s trailblazers were as interested in words and honesty as the trailblazers of emo music and rap music. On his first album ‘I Hate You, I Hate You, I Fucking Hate You’, Isaac busts out the guitars and goes full emo. Thankfully, while he borrows heavily from Lil Peep, he brings his own personality and experience to the sound because he cares about words and honesty.
On a tape permeated by suicidal fantasies, the most affecting song is ‘Cancer’, where he actually he says that he’s alright. It’s Lil Peep-ish but feels just as influenced by Earl’s intensely intimate, depression-rap masterclass ‘Solace’. Earl described that project as ‘music from when i hit the bottom and found something’ and that description also fits here. He finds hope in extreme darkness. He doesn’t believe life is worthless; just that he’s not worthy of it. Not yet, anyway. The song’s opening skit of a group of kids laughing at Isaac for not sharing his ‘confessions’ at a party is subtly very poignant. His voice isn’t even a part of the skit, but I feel like I can envision Isaac so clearly in that scene: scared to be vulnerable around friends who only know him as the wild one or the goofball. The song is about the self-loathing that comes from bottling it in.
The self-destructive climax comes on the next track, the musical suicide note ‘Diazepam’. It’s a portrait of himself at his most hopeless: fucked up, lonely and, even with his daughter in his arms, feeling like suicide is inescapable. He says all he needs to say in the first four songs so the last few don’t have the same impact, but he ends the tape with what’s essentially a really sweet, spoken-word TBH post from some of his friends. It feels like an appropriately cheesy end to a tape about an emotional lad suffering through his coming-of-age in the 2010s. The tape may only appeal to fans of raw, melodramatic music but it’s a great testament to his versatility either way.
From what I can tell, Isaac’s earliest song was ‘Blood‘ from 2016 and, though it’s not as polished, it’s still an impressive song that feels like a mission statement cross a therapy session for Isaac. Even then, he was rapping like his life depended on it. His first big splash came with his 2018 song ‘Trainspotting‘ which is still his most-viewed on YouTube. It’s more of a rumbling, good-time banger where Isaac samples the Sydney Trains announcement noise. After that was a bunch more singles which were varied but mostly of the more intense, loud style popular on Soundcloud which I’m not as into. The standouts ‘KAOWS’ and ‘VAPORMAX!’ are still heaters with plenty bars.
Isaac Puerile is in a class of his own at the moment. He’s the full-package who can write hard raps, write emotional raps, sing a bit, experiment with dope flows and cook up hot beats. He also seems like a great father and a good dude with a lot of love for his community and the Aussie scene. He’s made some amazing music already but I’m sure his best is still to come.
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