Atlantic Records

How does an artist like Philadelphia native PnB Rock stand out in 2017? It’s a blunt question but one that holds very real weight especially for the 25-year-old rap crooner. With today’s modern hip-hop sound gravitating towards melody and singing more than ever before, it seems as if at every turn there’s a new artist entering the rap crooner lane; PnB is one of the newest artists riding down that path.

Luckily for him, though he's one of many rappers chasing this lane, his RnB mixtape trilogy was met with positive praise primarily for his astute vocal range and ability to actually sing instead of simply using Auto-Tune as a compulsory crutch. Now that he’s an artist firmly inked with Atlantic Records and has reached a sustainable level of rookie success, GTTM: Going Thru the Motions would naturally be his chance to truly show and prove, but some of the 14 tracks mirror the project’s lackadaisical title. Unlike the exponential growth in sound and soul on each sequential RnB mixtape, GTTM picks up exactly where he left off back in 2015. PnB attempts to deliver his highest caliber record thus far by pulling together big-time producers and featured artists to lend a hand.

If PnB was at the very least aiming to walk away with a major hit single then mission accomplished because “Selfish” continues to knock even seven months later. The slow summer burner that still has fans humming, “I'm selfish/I want you all to myself I swear/You don't need nobody else I swear” has been on an ascending rise in popularity since its release back in June and is by far his biggest track to date. It serves as a strong focal point for the rest of GTTM to be built around chiefly from a sonic point of view. Donut and Needlz craft what can be best described as a digitally dominant ballad that pairs perfectly with PnB’s age-old lines about love’s proprietorship. However, it’s Slade Da Monsta who gifts Rock with the best beat on the entire project. “Misunderstood,” although incredibly boastful, is a mix of hypnotic vibrations and spongy 808s that are easy to get lost in.

“Playa No More” is another cut that might have a similar trajectory to “Selfish” seeing as it handles a very similar theme, which couldn’t be more easily digested by the masses. Plus, nabbing Quavo and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie for the guest spots helps tenfold though true PnB fans will appreciate “Notice Me” due to its surprisingly vulnerable demeanor. He timidly asks his female pursuit, “Notice me, do you ever notice me?/I feel like I'm Jodeci, won't you come and talk to me” which is refreshing seeing as on previous song “Range Rover” he can’t help but flex that he “Pulled up to the scene in that new Range Rover/I was landing first class, you still on that layover/I just fucked your bitch, she keep tryna stay over”. Contradictory? Yes, but showing versatility is important.

GTTM comes to a puzzling close with the rap attack, “Stand Back.” Proudly claiming that “money ain’t a thang” over abrasive instrumentation, the man more known for serenading sweethearts goes out with some rapid-fire bars about being the best thing since $7,000 Balmain jackets. Although it’s unfortunate that this debut didn’t carry more of a unique narrative to advance PnB Rock’s story, he still manages to deliver what fans will enjoy most, even if that means professing love for a woman on one song and then demanding a threesome in his car the next. After all, life is all about balance.

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