Drew Millard started making memes at age 6
On March 14th, just like every day, hundreds of mixtapes hit the Internet, on websites like Livemixtapes and Datpiff and HotNewHipHop and the bottomless pit of despair and thirst that is Eric Sundermann’s inbox. But March 14th was special, because among the flotsam and the jetsam and the Skippas di Flippa and the Chevy Woodses, a beacon of hope shone out, a nugget of beauty in this otherwise cold and unloving world. Said nugget took the corporeal form of Gift and a Curse, the new mixtape by Shop Boyz, who you might remember for writing a little song called “Party Like a Rockstar” and bringing Marilyn Manson to the hood nearly a decade before he hopped on a track with Gucci Mane.
Gift and a Curse, however, is about as far removed from “Party Like a Rockstar” as Phil Collins is removed from that one Sean Kingston song that sampled Phil Collins. Which is to say, the two have nothing to do with each other. I have no idea what the fuck Shop Boyz did between their sole album Rockstar Mentality and last Saturday when they put this out, but I can only assume it involved getting older, wiser, and taking in the full spectrum of Atlanta rap—if Gift and a Curse were released by any combination of the dudes in Rae Sremmurd, Travis Porter, and Rich Kidz, certain corners of the rap Internet would be falling over themselves to praise this thing, but unfortunately Gift and a Curse had the misfortune of being made by the “Party Like a Rockstar” dudes, and instead of every rap blogger with a WordPress, well, Shop Boyz have got me. So I better not fuck this up.
I went into Gift and a Curse the only way you can go into a new Shop Boyz mixtape in 2015: with zero expectations, and more than a little bewilderment that it even existed. But you know what? It’s fucking good, and it deserves to be listened to. The goofy “Hey y’all we’re a rap group that randomly throws in rock imagery!” conceit is (mostly) gone, and instead Shop Boyz have become a triple-headed hydra that vaguely resemble what it would sound like if Yo Gotti, Jeremih, and Skooly from Rich Kids (lowkey the most influential rapper of the past ten years) were all in a rap group for some reason. The title track is a minimal, slinky number that a stripper would dance to in space. “On and On” is a way more nuanced protest song than any song written by a dude named “Fat” (oh, I forgot to mention: one of the dudes in Shop Boyz is named “Fat”) has any right to be. “Sack Right” sounds like something they should play on the NFL after somebody scores a touchdown. “Wanna See It” sounds like a Sufjan song about a stripper. “Touch It” features Shawty Lo, which . . . good for him. It’s nice seeing Shawty Lo get work.
I’m worried I’m losing you here, but seriously, give this tape a chance. Gift and a Curse is a fun record made by some guys who know a thing about cutting a rug and/or whatever that weird quasi-sticky flooring situation in Blue Flame is. They’ve basically taken the best case scenario for something like this, trading in on their name recognition and total “what the fuck” factor to lure people (well, me) in, and then pulling a bait and switch with a total sonic and stylistic reinvention, blowing everyone (again, probably just me) away in the process. The point is Shop Boyz have a new mixtape, and it is wonderful.
In closing, I started listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album on the way home from work. Then I got bored, so I put this on instead. It was way better, trust me.