A couple weeks after dropping his new mixtape, The Luca Brasi Story, Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates was handed a contract from Atlantic Records. And though Gates has been popping off in recent months, I’m not sure the chronology of those two events is coincidental. Luca is one of the finest rap releases of the young year, and it seems unlikely that the independent Dead Game Records, on which Gates has put out previous tapes, would be able to contain him from here on out had he not landed a major-label deal.
Despite qualifying as a mixtape and a half – 22 songs, nearly 80 minutes – Luca never drags. The most common sound here is the Southern street-rap favored by guys like Yo Gotti, but Gates also tries his hand at Lil Boosie bounce (the Master P-featuring “Ugly But She Fine”) and Future’s neon propulsion (“Hero”). And while the best songs here (“Paper Chasers”, “Hold Ya Head”) are decidedly Third Coast, Gates handles everything more or less awesomely, routinely delivering standout-yet-natural hooks and maintaining confidence and energy throughout. He’s a talent.
Gates doesn’t have a particularly distinct voice, and once he starts doing features for bona fide rap stars – which he will be doing, soon – it’s not likely he’ll immediately slack the jaws of those inadvertently hearing him for the first time. Still, he’s got a unique enough temperament to mostly override that. Gates writes about everything you’d expect a hungry, brick-flipping young rapper to write about, but he also has a habit of flashing Drake-onian humility, worrying about things like his girl’s loyalty on the ironically named “IDGAF”: “Let me slip and head back to jail, watch how many niggas she fuck.” It’s a holistic, consistently satisfying persona, and we should look forward to hearing a lot more of it in the near future.
Essential Tracks: “Paper Chasers”, “Hold Ya Head”, and “Marshall Mathers”