Bi-Weekly Hip-Hop Round-Up
Drip or Drown 2 - Gunna
Gunna’s rise to fame was as fast as anyone’s; a year ago, he was a nobody and today he is one of the most intriguing young artists out there.
He became a staple of the music industry in 2018, featuring for artists like Travis Scott, 21 Savage and even Mariah Carey. Drip or Drown 2 is his first solo album to be released after he blew up, and people were expecting big things from him. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver on the lofty expectations.
The entirety of the album seems very rinse-and-repeat. Song after song, there is a slow, dragging beat overlapped by lazy lyrics delivered from the Atlanta MC. It took me multiple sessions to finish the album because I kept getting bored with the repetitive tracks. At no point does Gunna attempt to pick up the tempo on this album; it really does seem like you’re listening to one song on repeat for 50 minutes.
It could be worse, though, as Gunna does sound smooth throughout the album. Some of the tracks, such as “One Call,” would be great if they were delivered sparsely throughout the album; the repetitiveness makes it tough to stomach for the entirety of the record. Gunna is still young and a very capable artist, and hopefully he’ll be able to diversify his music in the future.
Shelby - Lil Skies
Lil Skies hasn’t released much music since his January 2018 debut album, Life of a Dark Rose, which led to much speculation about his next major release and what it would entail. The answer: a toned-down version of his first album. The energy on Life of a Dark Rose was something to behold and could not possibly be matched in his next album.
Lil Skies takes a deep breath for Shelby and gives us more gradual and composed verses. This is a good sign for Lil Skies, as it shows that he’s more flexible than we thought. He does still show us that he can reach that same level of energy at some points on the album, so we know that side hasn’t totally disappeared. For example, the track “Flooded,” is very reminiscent of his first album. The two-minute song is a rollercoaster that shows us the energy levels Lil Skies can reach.
The instrumentals on Shelby are fantastic. The production of “When I’m Wasted” stands out as the best beat on the record. Producer CashMoneyAP mixes a light guitar sample with a plethora of classic rap drums which mesh together perfectly. In terms of production, the album has no misses. Lil Skies shows us his ability to create great melodies time and time again on Shelby, which is definitely his strongest attribute and the reason why I believe he is on the road to superstardom. On each and every song on the album, at some point you find yourself nodding your head or tapping your foot to the beat. Overall, Shelby was a great achievement for Lil Skies. As a young rising artist, this album will only aid him in his rise to fame.
Rap or Go to the League - 2 Chainz
2 Chainz’s new album, Rap or Go to the League, made headlines for giving LeBron James credit as the “A&R”. An A&R is commonly a talent scout for the label that also provides guidance to help their artists develop. In reality, James likely only spent one session in the studio with 2 Chainz, where the footage can be found practically anywhere on the internet. Most A&Rs work years for the opportunity that James was given, and he most likely had little influence on the final product. However, this is a brilliant tactic by 2 Chainz, as James is one of the most famous people in America; putting his name on your album will attract an exponentially larger audience. Similar to James, 2 Chainz proves on this album that he too can shine under the brightest lights.
This is possibly 2 Chainz’s greatest album, although I would rank Pretty Girls Love Trap Music ahead of it. It’s safe to say that 2 Chainz has gotten better with age. He has backed up early hits such as, “No Lie”, “Birthday Song” and “I’m Different” with more recent hits such as, “It’s a Vibe” and “4 AM.”
Like many of 2 Chainz’s albums, Rap or Go to the League is infused with high-end features like Young Thug, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Chance the Rapper and even Ariana Grande. With many of these features, he meshes two generations of rap: his old-school vicious delivery with the new, autotuned, fast-paced execution. Together, they are equally essential in making this album such a triumph. 2 Chainz’s punchlines are one of the most exciting things in rap and they continue to impress on the album.
As a 41-year-old rapper, 2 Chainz takes a step back with this project and reflects on the simpler things, like his marriage and children. He also looks back on his troubled past of selling drugs out of abandoned houses in Atlanta. Many of the tracks, such as, “Money in the Way” and “2 Dollar Bill,” make you feel as though you just got out of work early on a Friday. 2 Chainz is boisterous and joyous in his delivery on these tracks, which shows us a side of him that we haven’t seen much in his long career. Songs like, “Momma I Hit a Lick” and “Statute of Limitations” bring us back to the violent and fierce 2 Chainz, reverting back to his Atlanta drug dealer mode. In total, Rap or Go to the League is a complete album that shows us 2 Chainz still has it and is not stopping anytime soon.