I didn’t know much about Bones (aka Elmo O’Connor) before this project, and still know very little, as he does not have a widespread audience yet. The name and peculiar sound Bones has apparently had for a few years was new to me until his feature on the chorus of A$AP Rocky’s “Canal St.” from Pretty Flacko’s decently-strong release last year. It wasn’t until the two gloriously performed that track together on Jimmy Kimmel a few months back that I knew I had to stay woke to Bones’s future.
I can’t really put my finger on a specific type of genre Bones has. He rejects the “cloud-rap” title, and I would agree. As he proves throughout the project, the young artist has multiple styles he can unleash within the span of a song. I hear some elements of hardcore punk-rap just as much as I hear where listeners have pointed out more spacious, hazy influences.
The first out of nine tracks gives a nice intro to the rest of the album. It’s the title track, with some pretty natural, light, harmonic vocals over a few peaceful yet hellish piano notes. Two minutes and seventeen seconds after I pushed play, I still didn’t know what to expect from Elmo; but I knew I was going to have to write a review after I heard the next song, “RestInPeace”.
There are very few albums I’ve listened to where the mood changes as quick as it did on here from one song to the next. Maybe something like Tyler’s “Cherry Bomb” where we hear his version of a metal track, smashed between gushy ballads. The difference is, Bones can pull this off. Yes, the hard distroted bass and the dried-out drum loop are polar opposites from the previous track, but O’Connor takes the darkness to another level. Not to mention, the 21-year-old can seriously spit. Rapping about his life when he was younger in Detroit and Los Angeles, it feels like the entire song is building up to a minute and a half in where – if his bars hadn’t woken you up already – he starts practically screaming his last few lines. I’m not into much hardcore shit myself (except for Rage, Dead Kennedy’s and a few others which Bones sometimes reminds me of), but I just cannot stop listening to this track and it’s definitely one of my favorites.
As upfront and punchy as “RestInPeace” is, Bones keeps the listener on their toes and proves just how quickly he can switch up his vocals with the third track “KeepTellingYourselfThat”. There’s nothing special about this beat, but I can’t skip over the track because the verse on here is arguably the best on the project. O’Connor’s flow is very relaxed and he makes it seem like rapping for two minutes straight is easy. The up-and-down tone from tack to track continues with “GladWeHaveAnUnderstanding”. The beat is mellow, while Bones is yelling the hardest he has thus far on the project. I say “yelling,” but I don’t have a problem listening to it; partially because he goes back to a reclined flow after a few bars.
The fourth track on the tape, “Tempo”, is easily my favorite. Young Austin producer Eric Dingus takes on the production for this one (Dingus released a fantastic project in 2015 that just missed my end of the year list), and it’s absolutely on point. It’s dark. It’s strange. It’s loud. This song makes you feel like you’re in a haunted house, but the beauty of the track makes you want to stay at least for the remainder of the song, and maybe a second listen before you leave. The hi-hats are crisp, as is Dingus’ style. He also somehow manages to craft a very pleasant screeching sound to compliment the dirty bass, light piano, and echoed voices which move from ear to ear. Not to mention, Bones’s vocal performance is awesome, and the mixing is near-genius. It’s potentially the softest vocals Elmo put on the project, and once again, they showcase how versatile his range is. Dingus and Bones make a great team and I hope to hear future tracks with the two of them.
The rest of the project doesn’t fall too far below the high standard of “Tempo”. “Soil” is another standout track for me, once again revealing some insane vocal ability from O’Connor as the mixtape comes closer to an end. The last two tracks are those with perhaps more interesting instrumentals than what has been previously heard, and although I’m not a huge fan of these closing tracks, they’re really not half bad. He doesn’t have a single theme to his vocals but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can still tell Bones takes time writing and cares about his lyrics.
“Useless” as a whole was a very solid project from an artist that was relatively brand new to me. I did not think Bones could hold my attention for half an hour, but clearly he did. There’ll be a handful of tracks that will stay in my rotation for a few more weeks, and probably one or two that will stick with me for the remainder of the year. It’ll be interesting to see where Bones takes it from here, but I have a good feeling about his career in the next few years.
Written by Dylan Hardin