Project Review: Lil Xelly’s “Side Effects”

Maryland-based rapper Lil Xelly has been making waves in the underground scene for several years now it seems. My first experience with Lil Xelly was when I heard about the, slightly absurd, 100-song project. It is clear that he can make new, innovative songs with what seems like incredible ease.

Lil Xelly has not only kept dropping consistent music, but has only seemed to grow and constantly develop as an artist. Side Effects (3) is a 13-track, 30-minute listen that is full of R&B-influenced rap songs. Xelly is primarily known for his “off-beat” flows and aggressive lyrics; however, this project is fairly refreshing as he is really singing on some of the tracks like Samus, Nausea, and Honestly.

When I listen to Side Effects, there are definitely some cuts that seem a little redundant and the flows seem almost too familiar to some older tracks released by Lil Xelly. I am unsure if I feel that way because of the immense discography that Xelly has put out into the scene (and because I am an active fan of his that has listened to the majority of his work). Although I did enjoy this project from the Maryland rapper, I would have honestly liked to have seen more cuts where he utilizes his singing vocals. These are the tracks in which I hear the most innovation and creativity.

There are countless projects and singles where Xelly raps over incredibly hard production that make it difficult to not like the music. There are countless projects where he displays his mastery of the off-beat and somewhat wonky flows that he employs so well. When I look for future projects from him, I would love to see a more vulnerable side that is full of emotion rather than braggadocios lyrics (although in small doses I do love a good flex).

When I give critiques, it is just me being totally honest on his I feel about the music. When I give critiques it doesn’t mean that I hate the project. Quite the opposite in this instance because I am a big fan of Xelly’s and this project is loaded with redeemable qualities and it seems that with each release, we are given more reasons to like and appreciate his music. I love the track Withdrawals, and I love the length of this track. Although long, this track does not get old or boring on the 5+ minute long song. It seems to be a mix of a few songs put back-to-back on the same track. I honestly think that this song has the perfect mix of rapping and singing that makes it microcosm of the whole project.

The production on this project is fantastic. Featuring music from Brent Rambo, Doofdum, and Soldado, to name a few. The sample on the album closer Dizziness is probably the standout track in my opinion. This is such a beautiful song and Xelly seamlessly combines his rapping and singing to form a perfect flow.

Overall, this is a very solid release from Lil Xelly and one that is full of highlights. Although there are a few critiques that I had and a few things I hope we see more/less of in the future, they didn’t take away from the listenability of the project. When I consume music, I always listen to the project as a complete body of work, in the order that the artist released it (i.e. I never shuffle through a project). I was eager to listen to the new Lil Xelly project and had a great time listening to the 30-minute effort.

Take a listen to Side Effects (3), out now on all streaming platforms. Did you enjoy this project? Do you agree or disagree with my review? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

-David Gross

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