Texas Forever: Dretti Franks Channels Vintage DJ Screw

Dean Van Nguyen shines up the candy paint on the Beaumont rapper's newest full-length.
By    June 15, 2020

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Catch Dean Van Nguyen sittin’ sideways on a Mini Cooper.

Dretti Franks set his new tape Manga Wrld loose on Twitter with the words: “G-Funk Only.” If nothing else, these seven songs confirm what everyone paying attention has known since DJ Screw started slowing Mack 10 records to a hypnotic crawl: Texas and California are natural allies. Because Franks’ vision of G-funk is exclusively viewed through Screw’s purple lens. Like a vintage Screw release, Manga Wrld is slow and intoxicating, decelerating time to a pace that renders everything around you serene. You can even buy it on CD to put in your glove box next to It’s All Good.

This benediction begins with “Chapter 16: Late Night Fuckin’ Yo Bitch” and a short spoken word intro that screws Dretti’s voice down to an unnaturally low, demonic drawl that’s as distinctly Texas as smoked brisket or Matt Saracen. When the wavy key riff hits, it’s like stepping out of an air-conditioned building and into the stifling summer air. Dretti—a native of Beaumont, Texas—sips syrup mixed with juice, and ponders how players from the South are just built differently. The production pours out the speaker like warm bourbon into a shot glass.

The narratives here are familiar: women, weed, alcohol, and hustling supremacy. But Franks’ makes everything sound like a vice that’s impossible to turn away from. “I’m not a rapper, I just talk with some rhythm and pace,” he claims on “Hypnotize,” but that’s just modesty. Unlike most Screw cuts, Franks rarely uses effects to slow his voice, instead flowing in a hushed style and leisurely speed that beautifully congeals with the mono beats.

Manga Wrld maintains an even tone but that doesn’t mean highlights don’t reveal themselves. “Ralph Lauren Luggage” pays tribute to one of Dretti’s preferred fashion brands while finding time to drop a Japanese dialogue section in the middle. On “So Frigid,” he furthers his case to serve as Texan diplomat in Cali by name-dropping MJG & 8Ball, Juicy J and DJ Paul while evoking one of 2pac’s most iconic pronouncements. Picture Dretti rollin’.

Smoothly bumpin’ closer “Gold Spokes” sees Dretti cut G-funk with 1990s Bay Area rap. A familiar sour whistle hangs over a thick bassline. The melody is soft, while Dretti drops enjoyable quips like, “D-Wade shit ‘cos we stay with the Heat.” It puts a button on this hypnotic shot from the third coast. Some simply parrot their heroes, but Dretti Franks is a rapper of the same stylistic genetics as his regional forefathers.

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