From his shapeshifting flows to his occasionally free associative subject matter, CEO Trayle thrives on spontaneity. Delivered through a lethargic tone and a variety of rambling rhythms, his stories spill out like hazy reminiscences and late night tangents. On “Chain Smoking,” his hook turns a phrase about drug dependency into both a lamentation and a warning. Meanwhile, his verses feature loft views at Atlanta Hawks games, implicit death threats and a shout out to his mom. He even makes time to recap a tense traffic stop, infusing it with a wink and a putdown to his enemies before pulling you back into a dire situation. “I said Mr. Officer, my Glocks don’t got switches/My opps don’t got business/‘One wrong move and you finished,’” he raps.
Those sequences underscore HH5, a menacing mosaic of disarming, stream–of-conscious introspection and tongue-in-cheek humor that allows you to experience a little of everything all at once. Over the course of 18 tracks, C4 swerves between themes of wounded romance, drug addiction, trapstar origin stories and inner ambivalence for tracks that use nuance and style to erase the gaps between different feelings. He’s all over the place and, more often than not, his impressionistic style leads to a lot of fun.
On “I Love You, But,” Trayle channels his inner loverboy, emitting convincing bitterness as he reflects on a doomed relationship. Skittering over a frenetic beat, he offers up a playful mix of warmth and pettiness for bars that are as funny as they are toxic: “I knew I’d fuck her one day/She know I love the gunplay — her brother better not come my way.” On “Chokehold,” Trayle ventures off into another problematic romance, this one with lean and Percocet. Coasting over flaring electric guitar and surrealistic keys, he spits about his come up and hard-learned survival instincts, ideas that make it easier to understand how he became possessed by an all-consuming addiction. From there, he serves up a mesmerizing whimper of a hook, a dazed melody that evokes the matter-of-fact clarity that comes with surrender.
Trayle fights different battles on HH5, but the most compelling is the war he wages against himself. That unfolds on “Alter Ego 2,” a sequel to 2021’s “Alter Ego.” By now, the concept of “me versus myself” is arguably overwrought, but Trayle manages to make it a genuinely exploratory moment as he uses perspective to contextualize the difference between Trayle in 2022 and the C4 of the trap: “I can give a fuck about who gun bigger/I can give a fuck who don’t like who long as my son richer.”
The production is a cohesive blend of ominous trap with just enough splashes of varied instrumentation to be distinct, though it can get a little monotonous as far as tempos and tone. It doesn’t quite match the wild imagination of the person rapping over it, but it’s an appropriately chilling accompaniment for Trayle’s sly street raps. His versatile flow patterns keep things fresh. They can be slow and deliberate, slurred or jumpy and percussive. At times, he sounds like a drowsier, diabolical Rich The Kid with much more to say and a lot more ways to say it.
Pairing candidness with rhyming styles that rarely adhere to any strict structures, Trayle cuts through empty street rap platitudes and formulaic songwriting with personality and versatility. No one song on HH5 is transcendent, but a bunch of them are really good, and sometimes consistency is key.
CEO Trayle been making music for bad bitches idk where tf everybody been at
— jordy. (@crave_jae) November 2, 2022
ceo trayle better than most major stream artist
— richie (@hbkrichie_) October 31, 2022
All of CEO Trayle Happy Halloween albums https://t.co/AaIBhCTxyx
— gemini 🎭 (@215_Don__) October 30, 2022