Quelling expectations with Juiceboxxx's Beyond Thunder Zone

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I've been a longtime admirer of Juiceboxxx, a Milwaukee-bred rapper who specializes in uplifting party anthems, so when I heard the dude had a new mixtape in the works I made sure to keep an eye out for it. Juiceboxxx dropped Beyond Thunder Zone a couple weeks ago; it's just taken me a little while to get used to it. The dude makes music that's meant to be played at a high volume, but the mixtape is overpoweringly loud and raw. And while I've praised the MC for his confrontational, in-your-face live sets—he's a performer unafraid to walk right up to apathetic concertgoers and shake them till they give some sign of life—I still wasn't quite prepared for Beyond Thunder Zone.

It's certainly odd considering how often I'm drawn to music that's abrasive—hell, it's only been a couple weeks since I praised Kanye specifically because he made an angry "antipop" album. Of course there are plenty of Kanye fans who didn't like Yeezus, in some cases because it challenges the idea of what those fans love about Kanye. As Complex magazine senior editor Foster Kamer recently wrote about Yeezus in a midyear "best of" album list, "people don't like change," and just as some 'Ye fans were perturbed by the rapper's latest album, I was more than a little surprised by Juiceboxxx's latest.

I initially expected more of the polished electro-jams of his old catalog, not one-take vocals recorded through a fuzz pedal. Fortunately, it didn't take much time for me to see past my expectations and get acclimated—Juiceboxxx is the same Springsteen-loving, irrepressibly positive rapper I'd always liked, but now he's flirting a little more with distortion, which is right up my alley. Beyond Thunder Zone includes plenty of other things that pique my interest: experimental producer Adam Forkner (aka White Rainbow) worked on a few tracks, onetime Chicagoan Lindsay Powell (aka Fielded) sings on a remix of "Never Surrender Forever," and there's a track that features Antwon, Schwarz, Issue, Fat Tony, and Kool A.D. So much of Beyond Thunder Zone sounds like it was made with my taste in mind that I'm kicking myself for not giving it more time sooner.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.

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