Whitney Peyton rages through the night on Firecracker (Pyro Edition)
Whitney Peyton’s 2016 album Firecracker was just that: a compact, explosive project on a mission to obliterate ear drums. Repackaged and expanded to create Firecracker (Pyro Edition), it’s still a fitting title: an overblown, exhausting album that ignites a forest fire but doesn’t know when (or how) to extinguish it, assuming it’s creator even wants to.
Peyton’s fiery rage manifests itself in the lyrics, song titles, and the instrumentals backing her words, whether it’s booming trap beats or moshable metal. For the most part, the styles keep to their respective halves of the album, with a rather sudden, harsh transition from the former to the latter between “Karma” and “Riot.” As the original Firecracker tracklist cuts off after the aforementioned “Karma,” it very much feels like the second half was tacked on without much thought into cohesiveness, or listener fatigue.
There’s talent lodged in many of the 21 tracks, however, especially on the hip-hop leaning portions. Peyton’s lyrical content is only slightly above average, but her ability to waterfall flow patterns and rhythms on top of each other creates a formidable weapon when paired with the high-energy beats. As a screaming car salesman’s radio ad devolves into blistering 808’s and hi hats on the opening song “Automatic,” Peyton bursts onto the scene with confidence and purpose. The emotion continues into the more dreamy “Don’t Lie to Me,” with clever lines like “I work more days than the weekdays” showing some prowess with wordplay.
Much of the lyrics Firecracker (Pyro Edition) contain revenge shots at her doubters and testaments to her work ethic. Still, she leaves room to inject humor at more than a few junctions, none more prominent than the entirety of “I Hate My Roommate.” Elsewhere the Philly rapper makes good use of shock value, with lines like “treat power like Rihanna, you abuse it” on “Woopty Woop Woo (Rock Version)” making listeners do a double take.
Peyton’s bio on her website describes her as a “unique emcee with a firecracker personality;” while that may be true, it’s far from original material. Firecracker (Pyro Edition) feels more like a conglomeration of tried and true styles, part of the reason it quickly grows stale on a track-by-track listen. “Through the Wall” sounds like a modernized Beastie Boys throwaway; the machine gun flow and intricate mixing on “Oh No” borrows from Logic’s catalogue (although the line “I got them running like Hillary Rodham” is a standout on the album). The overall beat selection blends in with much of hip-hop’s current landscape, however with a few toes dipping into the realm of mainstream pop. When Peyton leaves the beat machine behind in favor of screaming guitars, the swirling rage comes up a bit empty, with little substance to bring the listener into the music.
Peyton isn’t the first to re-release an album fitted with new material, and in all likelihood she won’t be the last. With so much new music coming down the pipeline on a weekly basis, however, it’s a strategy that needs to be retired. It’s rare that the two halves mesh together in a way that makes more sense than simply packaging the new material as a separate LP or EP, instead creating a bloated soundtrack that fails to justify its length. One can certainly argue that in the era of the playlist, there are more opportunities for Peyton’s work to fit into the rotation, but it’s not asking too much of fans to comb through two separate releases, especially when the end result would be the same regardless. Peyton understandably asks herself “how can I be rich when you steal my music?” on “Rumors;” there’s no reason to give the thieves even more material to swipe.