‘Raise the Bar’ is VIBE Hip-Hop Reporter Preezy Brown’s New Music Friday column. Each week he picks one Hip-Hop song or album that deserves your attention all weekend (but don’t worry, he’s also got a roundup of honorable mentions below).
Announcing his retirement from rap late last month after more than two decades in the booth, Yo Gotti delivers his swan song: CM10: Free Game, a double-sided project on which the Memphis titan doles out sage words of wisdom to fellow rap artists, entrepreneurs, and neighborhood superstars. Having gone from a self-professed kingpin to a legitimate tycoon, Gotti asserts himself as a seasoned trap griot who has seen and done it all, providing detailed accounts of calculated maneuvers executed along the road traveled.
Powered by standout cuts like “Collect Calls (ring ring),” “Giving Back,” “Bad Behavior,” “If I Ever Thought,” and “Strapped In Calabasas,” CM10: Free Game shows that while Gotti has risen beyond the trap, he hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to catering to that base. And with a “Family Tree” (track 9 on the project) of CMG signees that includes Moneybagg Yo, Blac Youngsta, 42 Dugg, and EST Gee, who all appear throughout the album’s 22 tracks, Yo Gotti can kick his feet up knowing the game will continue to be told under his watchful tutelage.
One artist I’ve come to expect well-curated bodies of work from is 2 Chainz, who boasts a discography that towers over that of most other rappers both musically and in terms of promotion. While Tity Boi has mastered the art of creating excitement around his projects, his latest offering, Dope Don’t Sell Itself, finds the Atlanta spitter missing his footing at times, with highlights like “Kingpen,” “Outstanding,” “Million Dollars Worth of Game” and “If You Want Me To” surrounded by clunkers like “Neighbors Know My Name” and “Free B.G..” Dope Don’t Sell Itself is ultimately a good but not great effort, as it fails to duplicate the firepower of 2 Chainz’s previous outings.
With the abundance of artists dropping new music every day, it’s all but impossible for fans to fully do their due diligence on each individually. Such was the case for me when it came to Chicago spitter SABA. While I’ve enjoyed his appearances alongside Chance the Rapper and others, I hadn’t fully gotten familiar with all that he has to offer until pressing play on Few Good Things, which caught my attention in short order. Returning more than three years after the release of his critically-acclaimed sophomore album, CARE FOR ME, SABA has resurfaced with an LP that finds the Pivot Gang leader galvanizing a clan of collaborators ranging from drill maven G Herbo (“Survivor’s Guilt”) to veteran wordsmith Black Thought, who appears on the album’s titular finale. While my time with this release is still relatively young, “Come My Way,” “Stop That,” and “2012” are just a few of the good things I stumbled upon while perusing through SABA’s latest.
Harlem mainstays Smoke DZA and Bodega Bamz both contribute to this week’s slate of new releases with Mood Swings and The Lost Pack, produced entirely by Real Bad Man and V Don respectively. DZA and Real Bad Man prove to be a deadly combination, as the pair concentrate their forces on noteworthy selections like the Flee Lord-assisted “Dearly Beloved” and “Ken Patera,” which features stanzas from Knowledge The Pirate and Queens connect Remy Banks. Having diversified his portfolio with a foray into Tinseltown these past few years, Bodega Bamz hooks up with V Don and churns out a serviceable slate of cuts highlighted by the standouts “110 Keep It,” “Raise Ya Glass” and “Frontline.” Being in front of the camera doesn’t seem to have impaired Bamz’s skills behind the mic, as he equips himself well over V Don’s collection of brooding soundscapes.
My pick for this week’s dark-horse release that you’d be remiss to overlook is West Coast vet Philthy Rich’s new album, Motivational Purpose, an impressive body of work that finds the “King of Oakland” adding to his legend as one of the Bay Area’s finest unsung heroes. Colliding with R&B star Jeremih on the infectious thumper “Safe” and trading verses with Detroit rhymer Icewear Vezzo on “Sem God X Drank God,” Philthy Rich employs a cast of guest stars to help him do his bidding on Motivational Purpose, which ranks among the more potent albums of this year, thus far.
“Do We Have A Problem,” Nicki Minaj’s anticipated single featuring Lil Baby, touched down earlier today. So far, my reception has been mixed. Lil Baby’s portion of the track is a home run, and while Nicki held up her end of the bargain, I honestly expected a more spirited performance on her part. This is not to say “Do We Have A Problem” is a complete dud, but rather a byproduct of my expectations given her stature as one of the greatest to ever do it. That said, I’m confident the Queens femcee is primed for a big year and has more heat stashed, as this release has the feel of a warm-up cut rather than a grand reentrance.
A few other tracks from this week you should consider checking out are “Tomorrow,” which reunites Nas and John Legend, Griselda’s “John Woo Flick,” late rap star Juice WRLD’s “Cigarettes,” Currensy’s “Half Moon Mornings,” and Kayla Nicole and Queen Key’s new raunchy duet, “Sneaky Link.”