Kevin Gates is quickly transitioning from a great rapper who no one on the Rap Internet talks about to a great rapper whose main talking point on the Rap Internet is how nobody ever talks about him.
Kevin Gates is quickly transitioning from a great rapper who no one on the Rap Internet talks about to a great rapper whose main talking point on the Rap Internet is how nobody ever talks about him. That's not a bad place to be, especially when your mixtape is as great as The Luca Brasi Story. It just got named Rap Release of the Week by SPIN and mage-level rap writer Jeff Weiss is pumping Gates' shit up, pointing out that he absolutely owns his city. But Rap Internet appreciation should never be looked to as an endpoint. Everyone who likes rap music should be bumping The Luca Brasi Story profusely. So, I'm taking to the mountaintop that is Noisey to blog about it.
Gates hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a town that unequivocally fucks with the rappers it generates—Lil Boosie is a hero on the same level as Tupac there, for example. Gates has been around for a minute (check this tape he did back in 2008 when he had dreads; it's got Boosie on it if you care about early-onset cosigns), but it's only in the past few months that his music been popping off on a national level. His tape from April entitled Make 'Em Believe featured "You Can Leave" and "Brains Blown Out," two of the best songs of 2012 that didn't get talked about enough by people who run Internet Things.
Stylistically, The Luca Brasi Story feels Post-Future, or maybe Post-Drake, taking the warbly vibes of Pluto and nearly inverting them. Gates' flow sublimates from rapping to singing and back to the point where you barely even notice it as he rides molly-fied beats from producers both buzzing and soon-to-be-buzzing. The thing about Gates, however, is he's motherfucking bout it bout it, rapping, "Perhaps I'm too quick off the draw when I deal with altercations/When gangsters talk cocaine there ain't really no other language." That should give you a good sense of Gates' vocal style, as well—"altercations" does not rhyme with "language," but he twists it so it does. That's another great thing about Gates—the voice. He's got a distinctly Southern drawl and this weird singing voice that, much like Future's, is garbled and shouldn't work but totally does, imbuing every bar he sings with weathered gravitas.
The thing that draws me to Gates is more than anything his writing. There are so many details in his songs that are just sort of incredible, like rapping on "I Need It" about how even though he did well in school he hated it because the other kids made fun of him for smelling weird, or in "Arms of a Stranger" mentioning that his favorite book is The Notebook, or the out-of-nowhere use of onomatopoeia to describe a gun jamming on "Countin' On Ya." Also, Gates did a song with Master P called "Ugly But She Fine," which is perfect on so many levels.
I'd write more stuff about Kevin Gates and The Luca Brasi Story, but absolutely nothing I can say can explain how awesome this mixtape is. Listen to every single minute of it and if you don't like it may God have mercy on your soul.
Drew Millard's favorite character from The Godfather is Sonny. Find him on Twitter - @drewmillard