Anyone who’s trying to make a serious venture into music has to know and understand the meaning of hard work. For most rappers, “hard work” is the mantra by which to build the legacy that will set you apart in the ultra-competitive and abundant genre of hip-hop. However, hard work can only mean so much if none of it was spent improving your craft; evolution is a key aspect as much as the work you put in when it comes to this particular branch of music. Well, it’s clear Guilla already has that figured out and his new EP, titled God Mode (insert flame emoji). Not only does it have all of the evidence to back that up, but it just may be all we’ll ever need if another record-breaking arctic freeze decides to hit the country again.
Guilla’s work ethic is undeniable — this EP comes less than a year after his celebrated full-length album Crunchyroll and Chill, and thankfully, for a five track stint with a runtime of only 14 minutes, there’s a lot to unpack. Thematically, it’s a work of self-reflection and perspective. But in essence, God Mode is the short story of a young, cerebral rapper hitting his stride that effectively serves notice to those who don’t know and reminds others who might’ve forgotten that any of Houston’s hip-hop “best” lists would be woefully incomplete without him.
As probably the biggest nerd in the rap game, Guilla dropping references to every aspect of pop culture is an enduring characteristic among his growing catalogue of work. That hasn’t changed with God Mode. True to form, you’ll catch mention of everything from anime, such as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing and FLCL, to Harry Potter and pro-wrestling. But the real takeaway is how much of a backseat these references take than previously seen, giving way to air-tight rhyme schemes, addictively wicked beats, and distractingly superb production. Guilla really let’s you know that he’s an artist first this time around.
Having always exhibited an affinity for layering up his tracks with nuanced use of samples, loops, and backing vocals, God Mode is a showcase of all around improvement. The first track, “Guillotine,” sets a tone seen throughout the album, making excellent use of voice filters that adds a sense of diversity to the vocal aspect that is typically achieved by using featured guest spots, which are absent in this body of work. “Die Tonight” is a heavy handed and sinister follow up where Guilla masterfully skirts over a less than mid-tempo beat that’s all sci-fi and sludge with a rapid fire flow that’s perfectly in align with his signature and effective monophonic rap style. “Sad Money” is perhaps the only track with a lighter sound in an otherwise dark flavored EP, and is a bit reminiscent of the late great Nujabes. Overall, each song has quite obviously been meticulously doctored into a mix so well-balanced even Thanos would have to give props.
Longtime fans have much to nerd out about themselves as God Mode speaks much to the versatility of this rapper on the rise. Those who took a trip to space with him in Children of the Sun, partied to the Sorry single, and vibed out to Crunchy Roll and Chill, can crank the bass up and blast this aptly titled banger of an EP. With this newfound finesse, Guilla has made the push from being the perennial dark-horse to a threatening contender in the ongoing battle for Houston rap scene supremacy. All in all, there’s much to be learned about the future of Guilla upon listening to this small package of heat, and all of it is looking pretty bright.