The last seven years haven’t been easy for Thaiboy Digital (real name Thanapat Boonleang). The rapper was deported from his home in Stockholm due to visa complications in 2015, forcing him to relocate thousands of miles away to Bangkok, where he continued working with his fellow Drain Gang members Bladee, Ecco2k and Whitearmor remotely. In the years since, he lost his friend, the producer Vattenrum, and became a dad. “I realised that I was in a dark place and then it’d been seven years and a lot of things happened,” he told Dazed in a recent interview. “I got my baby and then I lost a friend. I didn’t know how to express any feelings that I had, so I started doing this album through all these things going on in my life.”
On Back 2 Life, Thaiboy channels these complex emotions across 12 tracks that reflect on the pain and loss of the past few years, while putting out a message of love and hope. Featuring frequent collaborators Bladee and Yung Lean on vocals, and production by Mechatok, Lusi and Whitearmor, the record still has the regular hallmarks of a drain album: there’s sparse, airy beats, dreamy synth lines, and AutoTuned croons. But whereas previous releases saw the rapper flexing about stacking Benjamins and drug-fuelled benders, Back 2 Life feels less hedonistic, more life-affirming, whether it’s flexing “family first” on “All The Way” or reflecting on the birth of his daughter on “Angel” (“[She] came down like a blessing”). Later he asserts that “my heart is my home” against cascades of vocal samples on the title track, before declaring: “Seven years is a long time but now Back 2 Life.” Blessed up and love-pilled, it’s – let’s face it – the sort of uplifting content we need right now; it shows that no matter how much darkness you endure, there’s always the option to choose love (for real, man).
Elsewhere, Malibu shares an ambient EP Palaces of Pity, Maple drops a hyperactive EP of glitched-out tunes, and Phoebe Bridgers releases a selection of festive covers to usher us into holiday season.