Pi’erre Bourne is first and foremost a producer, even if he won’t admit it. On the deluxe edition of The Life of Peter 4, released in 2020, none of the words he rapped through a glaze of Auto-Tune meant as much as the dreamy synths or the hypnotic overload of producer tags. Beats fueled this project, but that’s not the only thing Pi’erre wants you to focus on. Since first bursting onto the mainstream landscape with lush productions for Playboi Carti’s self-titled mixtape in 2017, he’s been on a mission to have his raps taken just as seriously. On Good film, he achieves this by removing some of the flavor from his instrumentals and shifting the focus to what he is saying. Most of the time it works – he’s a really good rapper, but toning down his output isn’t worth it.
It’s not that Pi’erre is all of a sudden masterfully technical; there’s no flow that will blow your mind, and if you choose a phrase or two, you’ll probably burst out laughing. But he compensates for this deficit by giving the project a strong narrative impulse. It’s a breakup album, or maybe an album about wanting to fall in love after a breakup. Prior to this record, his lyrics sounded tied and clunky. But on Good film, there is a moment when it surpasses itself; some lines are surprisingly inane.
Throughout the album, he oscillates between melancholy and bitterness, reflecting on the smallest details and the fond memories of a relationship, such as when his girlfriend had her hair and nails done. It’s a music that is less interested in big fights between partners, and more in the moments that precede and follow them. “Where You Going” is a formal breakup song, but there’s no melodrama. Instead, he sings about his slowly deteriorating connection to a past adventure. On a downtempo, spaced-out groove on “Love Drills”, the writing is simple but effective: “All the love we had, now we need our space.” Unlike the vast majority of post-Future melodic rap ballads, there are hardly any single moans here – you know, complaints like “Oh, I’m in so much pain” or “Fuck my ex”. Refreshingly, Pi’erre’s melancholy is a little more subtle and confused.
Meanwhile, the beats are solid: they’re soothing, soft, and build slowly to their climax, even if they’re too bright at times. What is a Pi’erre Bourne album with a tempered production? It’s like a Spike Lee movie that’s only slightly angry, or a Kevin Durant game where he does pull-ups. Brash and busy yet smooth production is his thing. The jam-packed rhythms of the deluxe edition of TLOP4 too often buried his raps, but this organized chaos is missing here. “Shorty Diary” asks for a few glitches; the “What You Gotta Do” dance cut is too basic. The flattened drum ‘n’ bass beat on “DJ in the Car” is only saved by his beloved Auto-Tune croons that fill out Zapp and Roger on “Computer Love” at the end of the song. When the production is dry and there are too many lulls, the album struggles to maintain the energy, especially as the beats melt into each other, as if the whole project were one song. unending.
There might be more vocal highlights than production on Good film. Pi’erre’s hook on ‘Kingdom Hall’ is so bad it’s good: ‘She appears in my house, Jehovah’s Witness,’ he coos, his voice drenched in waves of reverb, sounding like ‘Crazy by K-Ci and JoJo. On “Kevin Heart,” romantic issues lead to some of his catchiest and most heartbreaking riffs.
But Pi’erre has proven he can do so much more on the production side, an ambition he just doesn’t demonstrate as often here. The sugary melody of “System” is overwhelming, but its opening lyrics about an ex’s nostalgic Instagram scroll are strong enough to stand on their own. The floating layers of “Hop in the Bed” push its croons into the background, but the mood doesn’t suffer. The shimmering keys and woozy synths of “Ex Factor” tell a drunken love story better than the lyrics. Too often his beats aren’t as lively. He may have proven that his rapping is worthy of attention, but to get there he had to retain his singular vision as a producer.