With Young Scooter headed to the pen to play paddycake with his sound-a-like cellmate, Gucci, it seems only fitting to post “Strong.” Originally released late last year on Kevin Gates’ street album, In the Meantime, it’s been re-circulated among the blogs who posted about Kevin Gates before Atlantic said it was okay to post about Kevin Gates. I was originally planning on letting this one slide through the cracks, since there’s not much that I can add to the Gates discussion. But I’ve been listening to more Gates this year than any other artist and this song is as good of a reason as any. A lot of the times there’s not much to write about a song other than playing spot the influence. With Scooter, it’s obvious that he’s one step away from getting an ice cream cone with a Gucci insignia on his forehead. With someone like Gates, it’s much more difficult.

If you just tuned in on “Trust You,” you probably think he’s like Future Ray Vaughn. But that’s mistaking the clear influence of Cash Money and the classic Concentration Camp and Trill Records from Baton Rouge. There’s a dancehall influence and there’s the classic litany (Big, Jay, Big, whomever everyone listens to.) Gates would be worth listening to just off innate musicality. Like Future, he uses auto-tune as a damaged yawp, but his lyrics are contoured to the sadness and savagery of the state pen and the BR streets. There’s a hardness but also the admission that “we all break down.” He offers the image of empty hallways and wrecked paths. He doesn’t tell just tell you what it’s like, he makes you feel the emotional desolation that comes from being abandoned.

Scooter says he hopes he’ll never to prison, but Gates offers more concrete realities. Mothers getting older and going blind. The feeling of being forgotten and getting no letters in the pen. He reminisces about the what if’s and it reminds me of Boosie wondering if he should have “took the good route like his brother.” You even hear the hollering and yelling of prison in the background. If you don’t listen closely, you can just let the minor key pianos and melody wash over you. If you listen closely, you realize that Gates has a gift for condensing information and emotion, just like the greats who came before him. It is sensitive but never soft. You don’t have to understand what it’s like to serve time, you just have to empathize with a certain sense of struggle. Gates derives his strength from this — an ability to see all sides and realize that there aren’t any answers.

MP3: Kevin Gates ft. Young Scooter — “Strong”

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