As the Southern-rap money train finally runs out of steam, it’s fitting that the style is currently—and perhaps terminally—resting in the land of its Technicolor, reality-detached origin: Miami. Flo Rida, proprietor of the most hyped-up album release of this bleak commercial down-cycle, started his career as a hypeman for 2 Live Crew, the first Southern rap crew to amass national attention; 2LC’s crass, careless fingerprints are all over Mail on Sunday. With a beige side-of-the-mouth spitfire that rises to grating vibrato squeaks for emphasis, Flo’s far from star-ready, so his debut full-length is all atmosphere: a would-be bachelor party of synth meringues, T-Pain’s friendly robot squeaks (on the record-setting ringtone titan and goofy lead single “Low”), the occasional moment of tithed introspection (“All My Life”), and a brand-name dependency that’d make a Russian oil billionaire blush (“She had Hennessey lips/Belve eyes/Grey Goose hips/Moët thighs”).
Organic moments—like the loose, juvenile back-and-forth with Birdman on “Priceless”—are atypical. Nor are there many cameos on Sunday: The room-filling synths suck so much oxygen from these tracks, it’s a wonder Flo himself has enough space to inhale. You can barely hear his voice until the album’s opening five-song salvo subsides and lets things like silences and rests have their say. The result is so robotic in its attempt to jolt every single pleasure center every single second that any twist of human joy, lust, awareness, or reflection is assimilated into its brittle, crunky Borg cube.
Joan Didion once described the city of Miami as “a kind of waking dream in which any possibility could and would be accommodated.” There’s plenty of fantasy accommodated on Mail on Sunday, though, to be fair, no more than on Rick Ross’s Port of Miami or in the space between DJ Khaled’s ears. But the album’s fantasies and dreams are articulated here with such an auto-tuned heartlessness that even the fantasies aren’t really truly fantasized—they’re programmed.