Passive Identity Vol. 1 is an album by rapper Passive. With 12 songs, it has a comfortable run time that expands over various themes, sonic inflections, and plays around with ideas. For most of its length, it is an exploration of identity both in sound and personality. Passive can craft an atmosphere in his songs through his rapping, touch on heartfelt topics, and convey a deeper meaning. On many notes, the album delivers its promise of exploring identity; however, a few artistic devices, choices, and production-related errors hold it back from its true potential.
The album starts with Apocalypse. The reversed audio sample at the beginning shrouds Passive in mystery and piques the listener’s interest. At the start, the audio seems to ‘shut off’ for a split second, which I thought was more of an error than an artistic choice; however, it doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of the first track by a whole lot. We are introduced to a lo-fi jazzy instrumental laid on top of a grounded, nasal voice. A lot is happening within the track itself; however, the energy seems to be a bit too laid back for an opening track. The sampling at the end of the track is quite masterfully done, and the introduction of the alter ego adds a fair amount of intrigue.
The following tracks up till the first half of the album pick up the quality by a lot. The second track, Redundant, had just the right amount of energy. The production from BrokeBoi is top-notch. Incorporating a foreign sample over vibey instrumentals added much-needed flavor into the track. With the help of expressive verses and rich imagery, Passive delivered a strong performance throughout. While Passive’s rapping persona is chill, conscious, and laid back, it settles in well with the beat and never feels like it’s missing anything. Same ol Same is the next track, which seems to travel in a different direction with its dark and sinister beat.
The beat itself is reminiscent (and perhaps shares the sample) from J.Cole’s 1985. Passive delivers a very nostalgic verse, pointing towards his darker past. GMonsta makes his first appearance on the album as a feature on this track. While I thought Passive was able to say many things, GMonsta makes sure he dominates the track with clever wordplay and lyricism. The next track Margarita Party relies heavily on Passive’s ability of story-telling. By this point, I realized that he is very good when it comes to crafting an atmosphere. He talks about his romantic side and how his appreciation for a girl bleeds into him putting her on a pedestal. This over-admiration is something that Passive shines a light on throughout the track. In the end, the beat cuts suddenly, and the next track starts. I found this to be a slight error in production as well. Sweet December is also a solid track in which Passive focuses more on his identity. The laid-back rapping style of Passive is heavily contrasted by GMonsta’s braggadocios and high energy persona. The pair don’t feel odd on the song, but help add dimensions to it. I find this partnership interesting, and as a creative choice, it served the album well.
Goodmorning(look no further) is where I’d say the second half of the album starts. I felt the second half was stronger in substance, although some creative choices seemed slightly misplaced. Goodmorning works the best in crafting a spacy atmosphere with its use of nostalgic lo-fi and minimalistic instrumental. I felt this instrumental was best able to capture Passive’s rap persona. The raw vocals gave a much needed earthy feel to the track. The imagery of the sun and rain were able to maximize the moody undertone of the track. Half-way through this track, we are led into the second part. I felt Passive had too much to say for one song with two parts. Although thematically, look no further fits in with the vibe, I think it was strong enough to be its individual song. The slightly pessimistic subject matter also contrasts with the optimistic energy that we are introduced to at the beginning of the track.
The Hollandaise Interlude introduces an acoustic inflection that sets it apart from the rest of the album. The coarse (but soulful) singing laid on top was a different direction, and I had a mixed reaction towards it. The second half picked the track up, so I wasn’t truly lost. Passive’s fresh flow with very introspective subject matter helped with the overall exploration of identity. Broke Forever starts with a very heartfelt piano coupled with lo-fi inflections. Passive’s story-telling ability comes back here, and he is able to craft an atmosphere that I felt truly immersed in. He talks about the financial struggle, hints at the ‘single mother’ phenomenon, and brings urgency to the horror of bills catching up. It was a strong conceptual song that felt too short. I wanted him to bring in more imagery and explore the subject further. i try felt sonically consistent with its subdued instrumental and old school sample. Passive talks about his work ethic and his struggle to gain recognition. It was another conceptual track that held itself up quite right. Galore…So Help Me God was another sneak peek into Passive’s personality in a braggadocios fashion. This track’s mood and vibe felt very different from the rest of the album, thanks to the producers. The beat switch was strong, and as this track did stand out to me. Where the water meets the sand… relied on heavy symbolism, imagery, and the dichotomy of sand and water. I loved the energy of the track and the concept as well. Overall, the album had a strong beginning, a solid middle section, and a memorable finish.
I had some gripes with how the alter ego of Passive was used throughout the album. This alter ego often made appearances as a distorted voice. On some tracks, I felt that it was slightly misplaced. I feel my appreciation of this aspect would definitely grow more if this aspect of Passive was developed more. Thematically, it makes sense to have an alter ego in the album as it ties into the exploration of identity. I felt Passive was able to explore this theme by incorporating different aspects of his persona into the tracks and shine a light on his different sides. Some tracks were able to execute this better than others. In that respect, broke forever, goodmorning and where the water meets the sand…. were better than tracks like Apocalypse. This exploration was carried out sonically as Passive used a wide range of instruments, beats and samples. I personally preferred the soft lo-fi instrumentals as they fit Passive better than others. I did not have a good reaction towards the acoustic instrumental.
All in all, this was a refreshing album with an interesting subject matter. I am looking forward to more songs from Passive.