Music Reviews

Album Review: guccihighwaters – joke’s on you

Gemma Cockrell

Long Beach emo-rapper Morgan Murphy, who releases music under the name guccihighwaters, has always been shy of the spotlight. His music reflects this – his understated, dark and sombre take on the rap genre is a far cry from the hard-hitting hip-hop that breaks into the mainstream charts. Instead, his music is loosely based on the hip-hop genre, laced with emo tendencies in terms of his emotionally-charged lyrics and overall mood, echoing the genre popularised by the late Lil Peep.

Heartbreak and sadness are (unsurprisingly) key themes throughout his sophomore record ‘joke’s on you’, the follow up to 2017’s debut album ‘post death’. The opening track, tragedy, captures this mood perfectly from the get go, with vocals drenched in desperation and emotion over a soft and tender piano instrumental. The opening lyric, “find me dead on your arrival”, is a metaphorical representation of the effects that heartbreak can have.

The single hold somebody sees guccihighwaters team up with artist powfu and producer sarcastic sounds to produce a song with smooth, soothing and tender layered vocals paired with a beautifully melancholic and moody-toned instrumental. Lyrically, it speaks of the strong desire to be in a relationship and be close to someone, despite not currently being in the right headspace or mindset to do so. “You will never find love if you’re gonna act like someone else with somebody else” is a standout lyric in the song, portraying emotional depth and thought-provoking insight. 

The single is accompanied by a music video that showcases a high school couple as they go through the motions of prom. This storytelling of days past is a key element of guccihighwaters’ music, with his previously released track highschool (which also appears on the album in remixed form, featuring fellow emo-rapper convolk) reminiscing a past relationship from his high school days. This charming nostalgia adds a magical element to guccihighwaters’ music, telling an emotional tale of missing simpler days, which anyone can relate to.

After repeated listens, the twinkly, shimmering keys in the introduction of sometimes are easily differentiated from the soft, mellow synths of the ballad intentions, and the guitar-infused instrumental of expectations

There are a number of featuring artists throughout the album, including the forementioned powfu and convolk, alongside nothing, nowhere., ellise, softheart and laeland. These features prevent the 14 song tracklist from feeling monotonous or repetitive, something which emo-rap often falls victim to. From nothing, nowhere.’s passionate vocals on the track rock bottom, to convolk’s screams in the latter half of highschool, and the female vocals of up-and-coming alt-pop artist ellise on lovesick, every feature on the record serves a unique purpose.

However, guccihighwaters does an excellent job of engaging the listener on many of the solo tracks on the album. Lead single straight jacket fuses his typical sad aesthetic with an unexpected confident swagger, juxtaposing lyrics about mental health with an upbeat, uplifting and infectiously catchy hook. “I’m in a straight jacket, you just think it’s fashion” is an example of his ability to write intricate lyrics with emotional depth beyond what can be understood on the surface, as a straitjacket is worn by mental hospital patients if they are a threat to themselves or their surroundings – but here it is used as a metaphor for the unfortunate perception of mental health issues as “trendy” or “cool”.

true 2 me is another solo track which oozes with this confidence, with a faster flow and a more hip-hop influenced instrumental than the rest of the album. Hip-hop drums and percussion flow throughout the track, with skittering hi-hats and booming bass providing the foundations for guccihighwaters’ swagger. catch22 has a similarly upbeat hip-hop leaning instrumental, and the song is instantly ear-catching, with the vocals coming into the track instantly with no instrumental introduction. The strong and powerful vocals of coming down are equally commanding.

At first, some of the other slower paced solo tracks with softer, less commanding vocals do have a tendency to blend together. However, after repeated listens, the twinkly, shimmering keys in the introduction of sometimes are easily differentiated from the soft, mellow synths of the ballad intentions, and the guitar-infused instrumental of expectations.

This charming nostalgia adds a magical element to guccihighwaters’ music

Album closer rope is perhaps the most raw and heart-wrenching moment on the record. It speaks of the deep regret when reflecting on not being able to save someone else from their own mental health, wishing in retrospect that you had supported them and been there for them more than you were.

The greatest strength of ‘joke’s on you’ is the vulnerability within its song-writing. From the charming and nostalgic reflection of a high school love lost, to the meticulous depictions of complicated and detrimental mental health struggles, each and every song captures the honesty of its story and conveys raw emotion through both the lyrics and vocals.

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of Maurice Von Mosel via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @guccihighwaters via No changes made to these images.

For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

If you can’t get enough of Impact Reviews, follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page for updates on our new articles.

Music ReviewsReviews

Leave a Reply