Never Go Against the Godfather: Kevin Gates “Luca Brasi 2”

His name is Paul Thompson and he’s been looking for you I’m writing this from a Bed Bath & Beyond. Just as this March’s By Any Means came out in the shadow of YG’s raucous My Krazy...
By    December 29, 2014

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His name is Paul Thompson and he’s been looking for you

I’m writing this from a Bed Bath & Beyond. Just as this March’s By Any Means came out in the shadow of YG’s raucous My Krazy Life and Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s unflinching Pinata, there is a new Kevin Gates tape that you won’t listen to for three months. But as we collectively stock up on candles and lotions and rare linens for the new D’Angelo record, remember that there is a gun-toting, lean-guzzling savant rattling around your RSS feed.

Before you rip off the proverbial packaging, consider that Luca Brasi 2 establishes something important about Gates. This marks his fourth full-length project in less than 24 months. Since the first Luca Brasi vaulted him to national prominence, it’s been a non-stop onslaught of vocal fry and salvage bags, the regional rap star model writ large. He’s signed to Atlantic, but nobody really cares; for now, the Best Rapper In Baton Rouge While The Best Rapper Was Locked Up is content to churn out hour-long tapes and pump them out of the largest trunk in America.

And the product reflects the process. Gates might be rap’s most engaging storyteller right now, but he seems disinterested in the macroscopic narrative aspects of being a rap star. His mixtapes are mixtapes through and through, at least in a structural sense–formative experiences and jaw-dropping set pieces are strewn throughout the tracklist, seemingly at random. There are arcs to Kevin Gates songs, Kevin Gates verses, often four-bar passages. But the larger construction is haphazard, and the effect is intoxicating: You are getting the unfettered, unedited look into the mind of a man who is probably brilliant and also probably insane.

For the first time in Gates’ magic run, Luca Brasi 2 sees issues of quality control and bloatedness rear their tattooed necks. “Thugged Out” is rote. “Break The Bitch Down” is a strip club song that will terrify strippers, and not in the charming Memphis manner. But on the whole, the Brasi sequel is an exemplary showing. DJ Drama’s barks are the tamest part of the intro, and when Gates is worked up, he can still make you swell up if the gas gets clipped. On “John Gotti”, he turns on a dime from gravel-voiced disillusionment (“My cousin CJ tried to hit me with a brick of raw”; “My dawg recording conversations, man, what’s wrong with him?”) to his trademark blend of dogged hunger and crime-boss poise. (That Drama copies and pastes the same set of ad-libs three times is the song’s only stumbling block.)

While there is nothing as arresting and uncomfortable as “Posed To Be In Love”, Gates still manages to conjure archetypal trap tales from the blunt smoke. I am not as up on the Bible as I am in years Nas drops albums, but I think “Plug Daughter” is in Job, or maybe Exodus.

As a technical rapper, Gates remains unimpeachable. Bound by neither convention nor human anatomy, he manages to emote at volumes and speeds that defy reason. “Out The Mud” and “Wassup With It” are succinct arguments for rap as a medium for great  vocal performances. Then, of course, there are the room-clearing vignettes, the tangents too vivid to be real but too embedded in Gates’ psyche to be made up. From “Don’t Panic”: “I done seen it go bad on the chain gang/ Seen niggas gang-raped by their own gang members/ Cliquing up with other gangs and they kill their own niggas.” Luca Brasi 2 is going to be lost to the HTML abyss, and that’s fine. There will be another in eight months. But as with his last three offerings, Gates dips under his own mattress to make the bags heavy for you. You should be thankful. Send him some candles.

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