BONES remains a challenging artist to keep a bead on. Releasing tapes at a pace that not even Future and Lil B match, the not-quite-underground rapper maintains his 2016 chain of releases with SoftwareUpdate1.o, following behind Useless, PaidProgramming2, and GoodForNothing.
There’s an inherent challenge to reviewing any BONES release, and that’s the pace with which he releases work. Most artists take breaks of at least a year between drops, something BONES eschews. It joins the long list of things most hip-hop artists do that BONES avoids. Record contracts, traditional song structures, hooks, features, he employs these rarely or does without them altogether. He remains unsigned, despite having a prominent feature on A$AP Rocky’s track “Canal St.” (which was actually a flip of BONES’ own track, “Dirt”), yet still manages to sell out shows at the House of Blues and open up for acts like Shlohmo. Nearly everything BONES does goes contrary to conventional marketing and wisdom, yet it works.
And thus the challenge presents itself- most artists take time to tour and experience a bit of life between releases, something BONES doesn’t do. Thus, he generally releases music from the same place, that of a man constantly on the grind. Progression between individual releases isn’t always apparent, and in order to see how BONES developed as a rapper, one has to look through all of his discography and realize that the man actually changed- SoftwareUpdate1.0 is nothing like his debut tape, BONES. But it’s also radically different from his first release of the year, Useless.
Gone entirely is the screamo influence that marked Useless, and produced the hellish banger “RestInPeace.” Instead, Update’s production consists of trap with synths that sound straight out of a 80’s or 90’s sci-fi film. The influence weighs heaviest on “EnterCaptchaCode,” a track that employs vox and string synths straight out of Mark Snow’s production kit. The production often calls to mind the work of Blank Banshee, Update‘s beats sounding like scaled-down versions of Banshee’s vaportrap epics. None of the beats here are boring, and manage to build on the dark cloud-rap of BONES’ previous releases, despite their close proximity.
Thematically, the album is darker as well. Rather than allude to the paranormal to add gravitas, BONES chooses to discuss his grind in grittier terms then he has before. “Money don’t exclude you from pain/Fame ain’t nothing but a single syllable that we us to say/known by some people/ but not known truly either,” he raps on album opener “TermsAndConditions,” a sober reflection on the face that he hasn’t quite made it yet, and that even if he does, his life won’t be perfect. “Bummer” opens with an audio clip of an older man describing his life, and perhaps summing up BONES’ mentality in one phrase: “It’s true- there is no end zone… ever.” BONES often reflects on putting work in and its reward, but this album cuts the opposite way. This album isn’t a victory lap, but it isn’t a lament- it’s simply a man telling us how tired he is.
Yet as tired as he claims to be, BONES didn’t take the easy way out on this release. Rather than produce another Banshee or Useless, as he easily could have done, he chose to push his sound and themes forward- something he didn’t need to do. In addition, the 1.0 at the end of the tape’s moniker suggests further releases in the future, something BONES has done with the PaidProgramming series already. This release isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a sonic step forward for BONES, and a treat for any rap fans willing to give it a listen.