Arts and Entertainment

Quadeca Tells A Modern Ghost Story

Quadeca creates an incredible sonic experience in his newest project, “I Didn’t Mean To Haunt You,” telling the story of a ghost watching his past life slip out of view.

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Quadeca was dying to make an album. Benjamin Lasky, known online as Quadeca (formerly QuadecaX8), grew up as a well-off white kid in the Californian suburbs. He played soccer and made a YouTube channel to post FIFA highlights and football commentary for a small fanbase. Quadeca comfortably fell in line with other FIFA YouTubers at the time, posting booster pack reactions with a copy-and-pasted PNG of his shocked face on each thumbnail. He mastered all-caps clickbait titles like “SUPER SPECIAL Q&A - 500 BILLION COINS, RAPPING, AM I GAY?” (a vital question that remains unanswered). However, Quadeca stuck out from the sea of oversaturated, monotonous FIFA content—between pack reactions and mediocre soccer edits, Quadeca rapped. His career justifiably started as a juvenile supplement to his usual programming—rap battles between soccer players—but there was a glimmer of talent within the poorly recorded parody songs and awful bars.

After a slew of mixtapes and collaborations, Quadeca released Voice Memos in 2019, his first concept album that saw a shift from his lyrical-spiritual-miracle style to a more singer-songwriter format. While many tracks still conformed to the signature fast-rap flexing tradition, certain songs tackled more mature topics like addiction and depression. By Voice Memos, Quadeca had one foot out the door to his own artistry, but was stuck in the awkward, predominantly white subculture of YouTube meme rap. After a two-year hiatus from music, he released his first self-produced album From Me To You (FMTY) in 2021, which showed a world of difference from his previous work. Quad especially showed improvement as a producer, crafting a cold, ambient soundscape. The project still suffered from the usual drawbacks—Quadeca’s singing left much to be desired; the pacing was awkward at times, and some rap sections relied too much on one-liners and fast flows, but the record as a whole demonstrated admirable maturity as an artist.

Quadeca returned with yet another self-produced project in 2022, I Didn’t Mean to Haunt You (IDMTHY). On the album, Quadeca raps as the ghost of a man who commits suicide and watches the world he once knew move on from his death. In this new album, Quad keeps what worked from FMTY. He tastefully deploys his wintry, harsh sonic palette, refraining from the amateurish structural melodrama of his last project, and adds percussive texture with static and white noise. The album begins ambitiously with a flute motif, which gives way to strings and rubbery synth bass glides, transitioning into the piano intro of “sorry4dying.” The vocals are mixed with a hint of crushed distortion, adding to the ghostly theme. As is common with many of the tracks, “sorry4dying” undergoes transformations within each verse, effortlessly spacing out and coming back into focus. The lead single, “born yesterday,” serves as a microcosm for the entire project—light plucked guitar arpeggios and oscillating synths back Quad’s morose vocals about watching his family move on from his death. The refrain “I think you’re goddamn lying” evolves beautifully as the song progresses, with distortion and line delivery shifting on each subsequent take. The track is also representative of IDMTHY’s sheer sonic diversity: granular, transient production fades in and out, with Quadeca’s voice going from booming to soft between lines. “fantasyworld” is another great example of mature production, with a delicate piano track, grand percussion and rising effects, and tender vocals scoring an epic seven-minute runtime.

IDMTHY also sees Quadeca honing his craft as a songwriter. Where FMTY treated the concept of mountain climbing as a vague metaphor for overcoming hardships, IDMTHY uses purgatory to tell a story. Quad’s penmanship is far more self-contained in this album, with lyrics alluding to his suicide and former wife’s grief. The gritty “knots” is one of the most lyrically dense songs, with the title of the track referring to the guilt relatives of the ghost feel and the ties they had with Quadeca’s character. “Knots on my neck, try to speak, but I’m tongue-tied / That knot’s the strongest yet, I don’t think it’s coming untied,” Quadeca raps, accented by sputtering synth leads and a growling baseline. Lyrics on different songs often reference each other, with callbacks to the character’s marriage (tying the knot), items in his former house, and suicide itself.

The features fit seamlessly into the story, too. Acclaimed rapper Danny Brown delivers a creative verse from the perspective of carbon monoxide on “house settling,” where Quadeca’s ghost tries to kill his family by turning on the stove in his former home. The Sunday Service Choir (founded by Kanye West) serves to drive home Quadeca’s final acceptance of his death on the fan favorite closer “fractions of infinity” with a beautiful chorus, repeating the mantric refrain “those words don’t do you justice” in the glorious climax of the project.

Despite the triumphs of IDMTHY, Quadeca still has much room for improvement. The singing, while certainly his best yet, is still weak. While tracks like “picking up hands” showcase impressive range, his delivery on “don’t mind me” and “house settling” is still underwhelming and flat. The vocal effects Quad chooses tend to drown him in the mix, turning the ghost theme into an excessive gimmick. While the instrumental interludes within songs (such as the track “the memories we lost in translation”) are pretty, they distract from the meat of the album. Some of the instrumental passages, such as the three-minute static outro to the album on “cassini’s division,” shoot for atmospheric and land as boring dead space. Despite its shortcomings, I Didn’t Mean To Haunt You displays another show of musical growth for Quadeca. His artistry has consistently improved over the years, and there is no doubt he will surpass this record’s craftsmanship on his next project.