I first came across Lil Debbie on YouTube—like most of her fans, I presume. Debbie got her break as Kreayshawn’s sidekick in the historic ‘Gucci Gucci‘ video and the medium has since become her calling card, showcasing her magnetism and trademark mascara in lieu of world-beating raps. That’s not to say Debbie’s a bad rapper, but she’s not a great one, and while some of her more experimental tracks often fall flat (see ‘Trap Lust‘) or feel contrived (‘Ratchets‘), she always brings attitude.
On Home Grown Debbie loses some of the ratchet sensibility that has typified her work in favour of a more smoked-out sound, better suited to the lounge room than the car, club, or YouTube. The album’s cover is an obvious expression of intent and Debbie hams up the stoner pride both lyrically and sonically. ‘Let’s Get High‘ combines a typically mechanical Debbie-style hook (“All my bitches, let’s get high”) with a Mariachi sample and sombrero to match, yet doesn’t feel particularly eccentric coming from Debbie. She has always imbued her work with a dose of the ridiculous, and Home Grown is similarly insistent in its hyperbole. ‘420’ features noted weed enthusiast Wiz Khalifa and his omnipresent cackle, concluding with an unfortunate dubstep breakdown which is best ignored. ‘Getaway’ includes some average yet curiously winsome singing by Debbie and an appearance by Paul Wall (who at this stage in his career appears to be passably swagger-jacking his younger self), but at five minutes is overlong and could easily send a medicated listener to sleep.
The tape’s best track is the anthemic ‘Break It Down’. Ditching drowsiness for actual energy, it trumps the tape’s other, much flatter rap-driven tracks—’No Brakes,’ ‘Yams,’ and ‘Hustle Hard’—because it transcends the tape’s smoke-sesh docility and actually takes hold of your attention. Debbie’s weed metaphors serve her aggressive posturing towards both men (“If I put it on you, only God can save you”) and women (“I’m fresh on the scene / Your worst nightmare but your man’s wet dream”). It’s disappointing more of Home Grown isn’t like this—’Rollin N Smoking’ comes closest with a knocking beat—but only these tracks have the same mettle of older favourites like ‘Slot Machine,’ or even ‘Work the Middle.’ Nevertheless Home Grown is a fun if mostly unmemorable venture into stoner territory.