4 Takeaways from Swiggle Mandela’s New Album

Movie Money is a confident windows-down summer set from the longtime Portland rapper.

By Conner Reed July 30, 2021

It's a big week for new music. Billie Eilish dropped her sophomore record, an entire posthumous Prince album has landed, and the likes of Laura Marling and Jack Antonoff returned to their more under-the-radar projects.

If those wind up being the only albums you spin this weekend, though, you'll miss out on the latest from Portland rapper Swiggle Mandela, and it'll be your loss. Movie Money is Mandela's first project-length release since 2019, when he put out a trilogy of Portlandsterdam EPs. Little here is as pointed as Portlandsterdam tracks like "Dear Portland Police," "Dear White Portland," or "Dear Willamette Week," but the words are still sharp—Mandela's gaze is just more often directed inward or toward the dance floor. And the beats are as creative as ever, featuring blasts of warped sax, stabs of strings, and warm synths.

The result is an assured, melodic summer set that we see ourselves adding to many a playlist. After a couple hours with the album, here are our four major takeaways.

1. Swiggle's Got Friends in High Places

Movie Money has a long features list, from Mandela's brothers Jasey Cordeta and Timmi Hendrixxx to Shoreline Mafia member Rob Vicious and critically acclaimed SoCal rapper Westside Boogie. A lot of the record's first half has a laidback cypher vibe, with verses flying loosely between a roster of talented emcees. 

The music video for midpoint banger "Swiggle Dark Mandela," which dropped this morning in conjunction with the album release, features a few of the tracklist's major players, plus cameos from fellow Rose City rappers Mic Capes and Donte Thomas:

2. Growing Up Can Be Fun

Throughout Movie Money, Mandela references his role as a husband and a father. "Think about my wife and kids / God knows I'm grateful," he raps on attention-grabbing opener "Facial." "I do it for the world and I do it for my people / But I do it for my children first," he adds on "Cordeta Girlz." "I was a child when I wrote my first verse / Now I every time I write, I'm thinking 'bout my children first." 

But Movie Money is no somber, Ray of Light-style meditation on parenting. It's packed with sunny bangers like "All That" and "Needed" and speaker-shaking tracks like "Thizzler" and "Planet of the BAPES," which remind us that maturity isn't levity-free.

3. Mandela Can Toss Out a Mean One-Liner 

Put on "Strugglesome," featuring Seattle's Shotta Pistol, and try to get the line "We made chicken strips out of chicken shit" out of your head for the rest of the weekend. Other stray highlights: "I'm way above the game like a scoreboard"; "All I do is make paper, like hemp"; "I was sleeping on the floor, now I'm a thizzler on the roof." 

4. Bangers and Biography are Good Bedfellows

Too often, artists make the mistake of tagging entire projects their "reflective album" or "the one with the hits. " Movie Money, refreshingly, keeps its eyes on both prizes. Mandela gets very personal on tracks like "Facial" and "Alberta to Myrtle," but makes room for smiley smoking anthem "Sesh" and the boastful "3 Goats."

The range is welcome, and the material never gets too scattered; it just makes sure Movie Money remains an engaging listen.

Check out the full album for yourself below:

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