Ain’t Used a Scale Since the Tenth Grade: Starlito and Trapperman Dale’s Trapstar

Sun-Ui Yum writes a few words on the new collaboration between the two Tennessee titans.
By    September 24, 2018

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Sun-Ui Yum got too much sauce for this juice.

There’s almost too much to say about Tennesse’s Starlito, who’s cemented himself after a decade-plus barrage of music as rap granite; his words are still razors. Particularly after the brilliance of this year’s At WAR with Myself, I won’t say any more that hasn’t been said.

But Trapperman Dale, his partner on their collaborative album Trapstar, is the opposite, an online ghost beyond the Dirty Glove Bastard rite-of-passage. It’s almost disorienting to hear a voice other than Don Trip’s intersecting with Starlito, and Dale is a markedly different type of foil to Lito’s subwoofer. The curled-up lip is a shared constant, but where Trip (and also Starlito, to an extent) lob words into mid-air, Dale slams every word down.

The sneering is already elite, as is the cadence– after an exhausting two-weeks of boring rappers calling each other more boring, it’s a reminder that speed can serve an actual purpose: to be a spark. Dale’s breathlessness almost relegates Starlito’s delivery to a comparative drawl; he’s a show-stealer, here, often. When he gets the runway, like on “See Me Sweat,” to construct the type of intricate hook that is (after just a couple projects) his trademark, there is no time to blink.

Trapstar isn’t as strong as 91, Dale’s album from this April, primarily because longer solo stretches accentuate the qualities that set him apart from the deluge of Tennessee rappers that have tumbled into the spotlight this year. The audible gravity that rappers like Dale and Moneybagg Yo possess is extremely rare but Dale’s ability to chop a fifteen-song, hour-long block of music into something more discrete is close to unparalleled in that group, even by BlocBoy JB.

Batting behind someone who is already one of rap’s most captivating storytellers, as a rapper with an uncommon ability to break monotony, is less than ideal, and Starlito is always going to be the deep-end of any duo, which is where Dale ought to (and does) lean in any solo outing. The rumble of 91’s “IDK Why” is closer, then, and it’s rare a rapper arrives in this situation – practically an unknown with multiple cohesive projects and without a definitive hit. 2019 will be interesting.

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