DaeMoney just might be Detroit’s most jaded 22-year-old. Though a dissociative world-weariness has become the delivery du jour among Michigan emcees—and by extension, the regional scenes that have molded their own sound in the Great Lakes State’s image—few rappers embody disillusionment quite like him. He didn’t begin taking music seriously until the late 2010s, rising to prominence alongside fellow members of the Wrld Tour Mafia collective, but DaeMoney has spent the majority of his life around rappers, learning the craft from his uncle Babyface Ray at a young age and even recording a pre-written verse on a Team Eastside track when he was just six.
His latest album, Slae Season 3, feels like the work of a seasoned vet, delving into a neurotic level of introspection. While the series’ previous entry, released in 2021, still felt tethered to Detroit conventions like frantic harp melodies and squelching bass, SS3 delves into a murkier aesthetic that better suits DaeMoney’s lethargic flow. Emphasizing his vocals in the mix, the production is impressionistic, allowing a blend of detuned synths and sleepy string samples to seep into a backdrop of distorted 808s. The effect is more mid-fi than lo-fi, but the subtle influence of artists like Earl Sweatshirt and Lucki (who makes a guest appearance on “Who Is That?”) is evident in his taste for the muffled and understated.
Nestled in the center of SS3’s tracklist, “Letter To Self” acts as the album’s emotional core, slowing the tempo to a crawl as DaeMoney spends a sleepless night cross-examining his ego over buzzing 808s and lush orchestration that recalls mid-2010s Metro-Boomin beats. “You can’t sip away your pain, you can’t smoke away your thoughts, you can’t keep blaming yourself for shit, you know that ain’t your fault,” goes the track’s hook, deadpan but piercing, like the racing thoughts that emerge during a bout of insomnia. The verses delve a bit deeper into the conflicting interests that fuel his anxiety: Though he’s told that “emotion is a fault,” his attempts to blunt his angst through benzodiazepine and retail therapy leave him wanting. It’s a downer of a track, but one that demonstrates a self-awareness and pen game that’s a cut above DaeMoney’s peers.
That said, Slae Season 3 is equally captivating when DaeMoney’s just talking shit on the beat, drawing from a stockpile of sports similes and fragmented memories of nights out with fellow WTM members. On “So Toxic”, which boasts the tape’s best beat—a chilling tapestry of strings, synth plucks and fluttering hi-hats—his verses ooze the same alluring sense of anti-charisma that you’ll pick up from 21 Savage at his most nonchalant. Lines like “I get so fresh, they can’t believe it, need to call Ripley’s” and “Discharge them bitches, he’s gonna run bases like Ken Griffey” may not wow you on paper, but they’re delivered with enough confidence that they become memorable on the strength of their cadence, easing into each bar with the comfy precision of a Rip Hamilton mid-range jumper.
At a lean 30 minutes, DaeMoney’s latest tape is consistently engaging, comprised of raw sketches that act as vessels for storytelling—even when he works a hook into the mix, it’s rarely a departure from the verse, more often acting as thematic glue, like in the aforementioned “Letter to Self.” “Basket,” SS3’s shortest offering and first of two collaborations with Babyface Ray, eschews a refrain entirely, instead joining a pair of verses at the hip. Over more traditional Detroit production, DaeMoney splices in extended basketball metaphors that center around his paranoia living in Detroit, while Babyface, like his nephew, details his desire to connect with the same emotions numbed by his smoking habit. Despite its brevity, the track’s intrigue develops between the lines, drawing parallels between mentor and mentee.
“I Love It Here” is the only track to eclipse three minutes, and is an unfortunate misstep. While the grittiness of previous tracks adds a welcome texture throughout, “I Love It Here’s” mixing is uncharacteristically sloppy, dampened by pillowy 808s and hazy pads that envelop DaeMoney’s vocals. By the time the second verse rolls around, DaeMoney seems exhausted by the beat, leaning on throwaway lines like “I turned into a star, and I really love it here.” “Pop Star” doesn’t drag quite as much, but relies on a dated guitar loop that inspires rock-themed imagery better left in 2017. DaeMoney manages to kick some catchy Lucki-esque flows over its bouncy kicks and rapid-fire hi-hats, but as a whole, it doesn’t live up to his own creative standard.
Summer 2022’s Slayer’s Coming EP, a 7-track collab with producer Trees, may be a minor entry in DaeMoney’s discography, but it represented an artistic breakthrough for the young Detroit rapper, fleshing out a dreamy, distorted aesthetic all his own. “I expected a lot out of Slae Season 2,” he said in an Off the Porch interview. “I wanted it to be some Kanye WestGraduation type shit. Blow up on Apple Music charts, Billboard. It didn’t happen.. I linked up with [Trees] because I was so damn angry. The 808s, the drums, all that shit be raw. But the anger was anger driven in the right direction.” Slae Season 3 is a refinement of that anger, polishing that experimental sound and breakneck page into a tape that’s conversely graceful yet gritty, setting a new standard for Wrld Tour Mafia—and anyone willing to push Detroit rap in strange new directions.