In the context of our global, shared feelings of political failure and uncertainty for what the future holds, Atlanta's electronic hip-hop duo, Danger Incorporated align their own future and the subject matter of their debut, big label venture with what comes next. Filled with a host of anxieties ranging from police murders, drug dependance, and depression, the LP is a synthesized call to action inspired in part by the 1995 film, Hackers. The cult classic's tagline of “Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity” is translated in Hackers of the World Unite's setting of a post-apocalyptic club scene and cry for upheaval. The cold grit of its hard hitting, spectrum of genre-blending is the result of cutting tracks since 2018 and a return to some of their harder hitting material that preceded Are You Afraid of the Danger Boys. The resulting end product of this filter is.a big step forward: the tandem's most complete, holistic work to date.
'To date' takes us a long way with Danger Inc. They have two previously released commercial projects as well as singles and EP's dating back to 2016. Long before that though, Boothlord and Louie Dufflebags met in elementary school and have been making forward thinking music since shortly after that. They have worked with artists like Faye Webster, Slug Christ, and Ethereal at Atlanta rapper, Father's Awful Records and have now made the jump to major label signees with their recent joining of RCA Records. Louie is the primary beatmaker while the pair split vocal duties. Although Louie has generally been the primary hook guy with Boothlord providing verses, Booth takes huge swings in Hackers, adding to his toolbox with more contributions of melodic, singing deliveries. They’re huge Yung Lean disciples--they take influence from his emphasis on strong production and intrinsically of-the-internet style, sharing five matching tattoos, several of which celebrate the Swedish rapper: a visual analogue of their time-tested chemistry both in and out of the studio.
The Danger Boys keep their work heavily in house, but have recruited Working On Dying’s Oogie Mane on the production for one of the album’s lead singles, "Frankenstein." Louie told Underground Underdogs, “With the Working On Dying stuff, we pulled up and they would cook up some beats and then I would hop in there and it was a lot of collaboration on the beats. But the process was very similar. It was in no way uncomfortable or that different from what we usually do.” Working On Dying follow their work producing 14 songs on Lil Uzi Vert's Eternal Atake and the album's deluxe edition with their Philadelphia man, Oogie Mane assisting on the Travis Scott-esque, late night trap banger. Louie and Boothlord trade bars in what is, along with "Hack the Planet," the most directly rap-minded track on the project. He drops quick quips like, "I used to look like Mac DeMarco / Now I look like I ain't got a price / Bought a bitcoin on the flight / Over to Philly / Working On Dying every night."
"Frankenstein" follows another lead single and collaborative effort in, “Fucking for a Reason.” Passion Pit's Nate Donmoyer has a big fingerprint on HOTWU, coming most notably in his mixing and production work here. The brooding, reverberating track speaks on identity, and trying to find structure from a one night stand in lines like, “I cannot stop smoking, I think about you and I get lonely.” The song could either be a soliloquy spoken in private or a desperate plea for another chance and the track plays on that ambiguity.
These two tracks are Hackers’ most accessible, but feel like a bit of an outlier in the greater scope of the project’s holistic message. The nucleus lies in the dystopian tones of nuclear winter introduced straight away on “Danger (Passion).” Albeit through a bit of a glamorous lens, the pair take the downtrodden and despondent head space of Are You Afraid of the Danger Boys and funnel it through the flashing-lights-escapism of Birds Fly By Nights’ dance-friendly aesthetic. "Danger (Passion)" plays out like a brief commercial for the coming age: “In the future there’s fashion, danger, passion,” told over a killer, doom bass line. “I’m finna tell you what you want to know” alludes to the dual consciousness to follow: you can find the future you want to see in the album. The following track, “TURNITUP” gives light to this club atmosphere taking shelter from the fallout outside. Its hard hitting bass warbles and shiny, anthemic chorus are interjected by occasional machine gun fire and autobot-type robot hisses. The track’s club banger framework sonically narrates the type of environment the project will inhabit: an escapist hideaway from the external winter; intrinsically influenced by the looming darkness, but occasionally choosing to “Turn it up till it's too loud,” to drown it out.
"One Life" is somewhat of a sister track with "TURNITUP" in that they share the same brazen type of forward leaning energy. It finds a defiant, anthemic tone proclaiming, "I've only got one life, but I'm willing to die for this." The 'do it at any cost' track also shows the type of genre-bending the group is able to achieve as its wavy, pop-sprinkled melodies are held down by tough bass hits and heavy lyrical themes.
These introductions are followed by a pair of songs taking it one step further, inhabiting this space more intimately. “You / Me” plays out a little later into the night as the Danger Duo find love in the club and promise bold proclamations like, “You got me forever,” foiling the barren wasteland around them. The industrial, echoing synths give structure to a stream of conscious, uncompromising promise in the face of uncertainty. Similarly, “Best Mistake” follows in a similar mold of unrealized love told over huge production. Here though, the texture is exchanged for something more vintage feeling: the opening could score a visit to a new planet in an eighties movie. Its beautiful series of echoing, reverberating overlapping swells precipitate into a retro, eighties-inspired love ballad. Louie roller skates over a floating chorus, musing, “I’m feeling like a best mistake, you still love me anyway.” Boothlord also gives his most sing-song delivery of the album. His bravado playfully complimenting the synthetic chord frequencies beneath him.
"Fall Apart" is a coming back to the earth from the 'head in the clouds' vibe of “Best Mistake.” Lyrically, it struggles with a deep depression. Struggling to leave the house and aware of a lack of inspiration, the song yearns for the energy to move forward. Boothlord finds a new depth of presence in his vocals here to balance Louie's pop-punk influenced chorus. His vocals are reminiscent of a Blink-182 song told over crisp, summertime guitar and light drum loops. The band has expressed an affinity to emo-rap, emo-trap sub-genre previously, having offered a tribute to the late Lil Peep with their cover of his “Cobain.” "Lost Boy" shares the solemn tones but is a more classic Danger Inc track as they delivery woozy, disorienting desperation. Laser synth webs intertwine, sometimes sparkling, as the pair detail a journey through substance abuse. Moments such as, “Tell me what’s the cost of living fast. Tell me what you lost and I’ll get it back” and "I might fuck my life up for no reason," muse a directionless sense of internal viscera.
“Red White Blue Pills” and “Black and White Angels” are stream of consciousness reactions to the current state of murders carried out by the police and general atmosphere of looming political uncertainty told in a stream of consciousness pair of dance tracks. "Red White Blue Pills" is both the most conscious and most danceable cut on the album and serves as a sort of thesis. Layers of failed escapism are mused through lyrics like "red pill, blue pill, I took them both,” as police sirens wail briefly in the background. They feel like dancing in a club unable to engage with the music; the constant state of anxiety compromising any respite. The two trade verses lamenting the United States while they “just dance, dance, dance.” "Black and White Angels" exists in the same headspace but a radically different production style. The track compares the album's most distant, unavailable instrumentation with Louie's pixelated chorus. There is a sense of malaise gradually being removed for a crescendoing finish that ends abruptly.
HOTWU closes with one final source of anxiety told in both "Isolation" and "dAnGeR iNcOrPoRaTe." On the same wavelength as The Social Dilemma, the pair of cuts work to express a dissatisfaction with social media and the anxiety that comes from feeling constantly connected. "dAnGeR iNcOrPoRaTe" is a classic Danger Inc production piece: grinding synths, looming swells lingering overhead, and a strong verse from Booth. "Isolation" is a wonderful, almost tribal groove also spent decrying the popularity of social media, but specifically looks to find a space free of constant scrutiny and even surveillance, describing, “isolation has become my medication.”
Hackers of the World Unite is available to stream here via Awful Records and RCA Records.