The Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates is good at many things—switching quickly between rapping and singing, writing powerful choruses, narrative storytelling—but above all, he is excellent at being himself. “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved who I’m not any day,” he told Mass Appeal recently, right after namedropping the Lumineers and admitting The Notebook made him cry (the book, not the movie). His “Yeah I eat booty!” rallying cry on morning radio, right after being named an XXL Freshman, might have shifted the sexual politics of hardcore rap entirely by itself.
He might not always behave admirably, and in fact sometimes he’s being repulsive—but he shares all of this behavior with us, in his music and on social media, with a shrug and a sigh. When he discovered recently that a woman he’d been “fuckin’ with” was, in fact, his cousin—something he’d been alerted to by his own grandmother—he took to Instagram to recount the experience to his fans and announce that he had no plans to stop fucking her. “You done already got the hard part out the way,” he offered by way of explanation.
This radical, often-hilarious candor helps explains the fierceness of his grassroots fanbase, which propelled Luca Brasi 2, an available-for-free mixtape dropped just before New Year’s, to #38 on the Billboard Albums Chart. Luca Brasi 2 is billed as a sequel to his 2013 breakout mixtape, but it continues down the path that Gates has been paving for years. It leans a little towards melancholy than the harder, grimmer Stranger Than Fiction, but the differences are minor. It’s another dispatch from a well-known figure to his congregation, an update on a tumultuous life lived somewhere near the peak of the American rap underground.
Local-stardom details, like the discomfort he observes at his presence at the local barbershop, dot his lyrics, and give a feel for Gates as a big fish in a small pond, warily charting his home territory. His infant son, who often appears in his arms on his Instagram account, is a looming presence: “Full time father, full time artist, ask God, he said ‘Grind harder,'” he announces proudly on “I Don’t Get Tired”. His belchy, froggy voice melts from a bark into a tender singsong within the space of a half-bar, which gives his music its uniquely unsettled feel. Gates tends to stick to his rain-streaked, moody trap-rap sound from album to album, but he nonetheless always feels unpredictable on record. On the pitch-black, Bobby Johnson-produced “Sit Down”, he raps in what sounds like four different voices at once.
His verses are full of ear-catching little non-sequiturs, like the “Whuh?” namechecks of Forrest Gump and Aerosmith’s “Jaded” on “Perfect Imperfection”. But his most affecting moments remain the tender-rough love songs, like “Wassup With It”, where he promises to kiss you in public and asks to “hit that pussy one time” in the same song. “Would I be wrong to wanna fuck you with one of my niggas/ If afterward I promised I wouldn’t look at you different?” he inquires respectfully on “Wild Ride”. These are the moments when his particularly messy brand of honesty shines, and gives his music its humble warmth. Kevin Gates is a savvy rap songwriter and a gut-wrenching rapper, but his greatest achievement is more intangible: He feels like a person living inside his own records.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1DSgm0n