If you know Silentó for one thing it’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” Saying this song and its associated dance went VIRAL no longer covers it. Fam, this song went COVID-19. In the last five years since this video showing people how to do his signature moves hit YouTube, it has been viewed almost TWO BILLION times. That’s billion with a “B.” Not ten million, not a hundred million, OVER A BILLION and damn near two.
Speaking of twos, if you know Silentó for TWO things, one would be this song and the other would be allegedly murdering his cousin. Richard Lamar Hawk is still innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but the circumstances leading to his arrest don’t seem promising. It’s hard to not think about his rapid rise to fame and equally rapid downfall when his first album is titled “Fresh Outta High School.” When he released the album in 2018 he was 20 years old, and when “Watch Me” blew up he was still IN high school. He’s incredibly young to be going through this much of a roller coaster, and the words of the opening track “Rumors” only feel more ironic given what’s happened to him since.
“Don’t just say things out of anger/don’t treat me like a stranger/cause no one likes a hater.” What happened between Silentó and his cousin then? Silentó wants us to understand “how it feels to be me” on the song’s hook, but I don’t know how it feels to be globally famous as a teenager and then behind bars for killing someone as an adult. The strange juxtaposition of art and life continues on “Numbers” as Silentó says “All these numbers don’t amount to nothing,” but when you go from nearly two billion views to less than a quarter of a million, that has to do something fucked up to your ego.
There’s obviously no way to capture the kind of lightning in a bottle Silentó found on “Watch Me” twice, but it’s not for lack of trying with songs like “Aye Bae Bae.” He’s ripping off a phrase that Hurricane Chris put into the lexicon with his own hit, but there’s nothing Silentó does with it to justify its usage. In a twist of irony this song did less numbers than “Numbers” and showed people weren’t that interested in Silentó’s next chapter. You can’t blame them when he went from a mildly interesting rapper with a viral dance to a mediocre singer. Not even a singing rapper who pitch corrects his vocals — dawg he’s just crooning here, and it’s not good.
By the time you get to “Watch Me (Part 2)” his desperation to do anything to reinvent the thing that made him famous in the first place is palpable. It doesn’t work. Calling the song “Part 2” just draws comparisons to “Part 1” and makes you realize there’s nothing as catchy or fun about the sequel as the original.
“Fresh Outta High School” unintentionally feels like a slow descent into madness. Silentó sounds confident in what he’s doing and has plenty of slick production to back him up, but the only thing close to a hit here is “Wild” and it sees Hawk actually get back to rapping. What’s the first thing he says when he does? “They takin’ my style.” Honestly Silentó you’re just taking everybody else’s, and I think people watched this video for the juxtaposition of you wearing SpongeBob Squarepants gear while cavorting with a bunch of very curvaceous women. They didn’t come for the song.
“Ya ya ya ya” says Silentó like Lil Uzi Vert, shamelessly borrowing anything he can from anybody else popular in the Atlanta scene he’s from. I kept searching “Fresh Outta High School” for anything original or interesting, but by the time I finished the closer “Young Love” I realized that he has no defining characteristics beyond his viral hit. He’s an endlessly malleable lump of clay that can be shaped into any rapper, singer, or rapper slash singer from the late 2010’s. I hope for him that it turns out that he either didn’t shoot his cousin or that he has a provable justification of self defense (maybe he was being extorted or threatened in some way), but if he beats the charge he’s still got to work on being more than a one hit wonder.