Talibando is the main character of his own comic book. Wearing the white bernard cap of a navy commander, he’s shaded in with the green tint of a marijuana leaf, textured with dark patches of tightly compressed bud. The cover art of his new album War Lord blasts propaganda: “Detroit[‘]s Own Long Range And Hussler With The Navy ‘Kill Or Die Hit The Stand And Lie.’” As the album’s titular character, Talibando boasts “more guns than Rambo,” and his association with Wavy Gang artist, Babyface Ray, makes him a familiar face amongst fast-rapping Midwestern drill and trap artists with an ear for beats that crescendo and diminuendo at the same pace as the water of the Detroit River.
On his loose-concept album War Lord, Talibando draws himself as a caricature, a mercenary leading his squadron through the land, sea, and sky. The album begins with “Bird’s Talking,” a slightly-distorted, walkie talkie-scratched salute to war games told over the ship’s main radio line. Talibando raps with the precision of a sharpshooter, introducing his origin story as a trapper with deep-set paranoia — a warlord veering onto the brink of madness.
Over hypnotic piano loops, orchestrated with phaser-sounding eighth-note hi-hats, and the slow drum roll of erratic drum-kick patterns. Talibando’s beats fluctuate between grandiose and sparse, sometimes opting for the maximalism of total warfare, while intermixing subdued tales of his humble beginnings, strategizing the operations of his ‘hood in Detroit. The story calls back to the style of Talibando’s 2021 project, Navy Music, where he impassively rhymes about the muddy waters he lurks in. The low viscosity sludge brought upon by his prescription of codeine syrup forces Talibando into a sluggish pace. Whether it’s his peers on the 7 Mile block, or the opps that want to wage war with him and his brothers, ‘Bando is putting pressure on his competition as if the combat could come to a close on the very next page.
The paranoia of guerilla warfare seeps into Talibando’s music. Tracks like “War Lord” and “Hibachi” loop and spin with piano riffs, where the repetitious keys force him into a state of neuroticism, arpeggiating up and down as if his head is constantly turning on a swivel. Fear creeps in as Talibando becomes less concerned with his money flow and more anxious about the gunshots that will pop at any moment (most likely to burst in time with Flee’s 808s, recoiling against thick basslines).
Despite the brooding nature of Talibando’s lyrics, the tape loses its direction on songs like “Addict” and “The Way It Goes.” These beats play out more like sitcom episodes rather than daring manga. ‘Bando substitutes grisly rim shots for uptempo soul samples and chronically festive music. Stylistically, the songs would mesh with the intensity of the project had they been sequenced on the back end of the album, meant as a heroic homecoming for the war lord who’s finally returned from the battle to see his family. Almost like a full page advertisement for said ‘90s primetime television, the three-track run from “Swim Team” to “The Way It Goes” breaks Talibando’s momentum in a way that softens the impact of the songs to come.
“Make the Money” resumes the album’s cliffhanger with the help of Ferndale-native, BabyTron. Working with the self-proclaimed Punch God, the pair reanimate themselves on Finn’s orchestral beat. In spite of the fact that ‘Bando describes himself as the album’s titular colossus, he opts for humor and humanity in the album’s second act: “You got to make the money, bitch, don’t let the money make you.” His lethargic, gutty sound is substituted for a more lively bounce so that the B-side previews a snapshot of our protagonist’s roots as Detroit’s suave “hussler.” He’s keen on making sure his loyal band of recruits are well fed, taking periodic breaks at their bunker to hear their bills flutter in their money counter, passing around blunts while they’re “smoking exotic by the boat.”
Although he can come across as another disciple of Rio Da Yung OG or Drakeo the Ruler, grunting out one-liners and whispering drill strategies into a panning stereo, Talibando redefines himself on War Lord as a staccato swinging iteration of Michigan regionalism. He’s gruff, yet approachable; his beats swoon like a harpsichord, but sporadic bass drum kicks gut any and all whimsy from the atmosphere; he’s his own comic book antihero, as long as you recognize that he aims for envy, not praise.