It’s impossible to listen to 22 year-old Philadelphia MC Tierra Whack’s extraordinary debut album, the audio-visual project Whack World, and not ask some Big Questions About Music.

At 15 tracks, each at 1 minute long, Whack World defiantly sits outside the conventional song or album format – and the songs themselves range over such an ambitious and diverse panoply of sound that it’s pretty difficult to pin down genre-wise, too – shades of early-‘00s R’n’B, trap, blue-eyed soul, crunk and even ‘60s novelty pop can be found here. All of that is to the good, however – the record’s extreme economy and broad palette actually serve to highlight, rather than restrict, Whack’s uniquely restless imagination. Whack World is also presented as a visual album, with equal billing given to the vivid accompanying material, directed by Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger, that further inveigle the viewer / listener. Video content can so often seem like a hurried afterthought, but these clips feel like an intrinsic part of this endlessly invigorating performance piece.

Opener ‘Black Nails’ sees Whack counting off increasingly far-flung coping mechanisms (kale, of course, gets a shoutout) – with visual representations – on her fingernails, while keeping her head bowed, her face obscured by a hood featuring a cartoon caricature of herself. When that hood is raised during the ensuing ‘Bugs Life’, she reveals a face heavily distorted by a prosthetic swelling, drops her voice to a murmur, and delivers a flawless, menacing verse – before moving the scene on again, to a primary-coloured dog grooming parlour, for a slow jam called ‘Flea Market’. Are you keeping up? Believe me, you’ll need to.

Over the course of the record – and remember, we’re talking fifteen minutes of music here – Whack keeps us guessing; reinventing, or perhaps adding more layers to, her flamboyantly intelligent musical personality. Sonic styles are established and discarded as quickly as Whack’s myriad voices: whether it’s the downbeat digitised slurring of ‘4 Wings’; or the peppy Scooby Doo-isms of ‘Pet Cemetery’; or the helium-inhaling boy-howdy Southern avenging angel of ‘Fuck Off’; or even the doomed, eroded syllables of ‘Dr. Seuss’… there is a spectrum of looks and sounds on display here that many artists don’t figure out in a whole career.

Though Whack World is predictably skittish on occasion, it hangs together as a whole for two reasons. Firstly, it is thematically watertight: motifs of self-image and self-care – and the pressures inherent with maintaining and performing both – are returned to throughout, with many of the clips focusing on and often exaggerating Whack’s physical features: add ‘Pretty Ugly’s magnified mouths and ‘Dr. Seuss’s oversize, house-busting arms to the aforementioned facial amendments of ‘Bugs Life’. ‘I ate all my vegetables… don’t want high cholesterol’ goes ‘Fruit Salad’, which features Whack feverishly exercising in a padded tracksuit. ‘I’m doing so well!’ she assures us during ‘Black Nails’, parodying the Insta-bots of the wellness movement. But of course, it’s always more complex, darker, than that. She delivers ‘Sore Loser’, eyes closed, from a coffin, and final track ‘Waze’ features a blank Whack staring ahead as a room fills with cotton-wool fumes. There is lyrical and visual symbolism all over this record which transcends the personal and becomes universal, and that informs the second reason Whack World delivers so convincingly: Whack’s sheer likeability, her imagination, her delivery, her steel – all mean that we want her to be her best self. She’s also clever enough to realise that the quickest way to artistic freedom is to subvert and challenge your own influences – a quality in reassuring abundance here.

To address some of those Big Questions, then: this record – as all great, original pieces of art do – forces us to go right back and consider how we’ve been thinking about or consuming a certain medium in the first place – it confronts and then reconfigures our prescribed expectations of ‘an album’, at every turn, with gleeful abandon. Is it helpful to think of Whack World as one 15-minute song? A single-artist mixtape? Or simply as a series of samplers –the equivalent of that children’s toy that you place on your eyes, each click revealing a new scene? Each way feels a little too reductive.

Perhaps, then, it is better to think of Whack World as Tierra Whack, Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Léger evidently intended it: a snappy, hilarious, disturbing, damnably catchy, but most importantly, complete showcase for one of the most exciting young musicians to emerge – in any genre – for some time. She joins the ranks of those hip-hop artists whose vision – however fractured and surreal – seems to have arrived fully-formed, tangible and mature. Comparisons to Missy Elliott and OutKast are, to my mind, not unfounded. And so we turn to probably the biggest of the Big Questions: where do you go after casually redefining musical consumption with your debut record? Only Tierra Whack knows. But for now, her world is the only one worth living in.