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Album Review: HANKNATIVE, 'Problem Child'


HANKNATIVE, Problem Child
  • HANKNATIVE, Problem Child

(Self-released, digital download)

A video teaser for Problem Child, the debut album by Burlington rapper, singer and producer Hank Collins, aka HANKNATIVE, features moody guitar music and shots of the artist looking pensive. At times, he's surrounded by friends who seem to be having way more fun than he is. The sounds and images give the impression that HANKNATIVE is part of a contingent of hip-hop artists such as superstar Lil Uzi Vert and Vermont's nothing,nowhere., who embrace, or maybe can't escape, their dark sides.

In fact, the catchy and passionate album tells a more nuanced story of someone who may be prone to sadness but fights back lest it get in the way of his destiny. For example, in "Toes in the Water," HANKNATIVE sings, "I'm hella anxious / Don't think my friends can save me / Another wasted sunny morning in my bat cave." Then, as if he's snapping out of a funk, he raps, "So what you gon' do about it?," daring himself to persevere and showing the dexterity with which he can switch from singing to rapping.

These dual skills, plus the work of three stylistically different producers — Somba, JuJu and Kurt Stewart — keep the album dynamic. At 11 songs, it never gets stale.

Not every track deals with such heavy subject matter — some are just fun. And they should be. As the latest core member of the Burlington independent artistic collective 99 Neighbors to release an album, HANKNATIVE has plenty to celebrate.

Take the recent single "Backseat." Like a song of the same name by the late emo hip-hop star Lil Peep, this Somba-produced earworm is an ode to vehicular sex, squeaky spring-like sound effects and all. "Dummo," which features a standout verse by fellow 99 Neighbors artist Sam., could, in the words of Travis Scott, "fuck the club up." The deceptively lighthearted "~3" celebrates late-night meetups with a woman with "curves on fleek," who, it turns out, is actually in the driver's seat of the casual relationship.

In the album opener, "Pressure Cook," HANKNATIVE sings, "Damn, I finally got myself an album in the works / Damn, my head it hurts / Stressin' 'til it's perfect." The result is a polished collection that would stand apart from many DIY efforts on SoundCloud, with attitude and heart in spades. HANKNATIVE: 1; Darkness: 0.

Problem Child is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and other digital streaming platforms.