Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Rap, Gangsta Rap, Southern Rap, Hardcore Rap
After the kind of year Kevin Gates had in 2013—finally signing with a major label when he inked a deal with Atlantic Records, releasing two critically-acclaimed mixtapes, becoming a father for the second time—you might think that he'd be in a better mood. This, however, would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the Baton Rouge rapper. Although his unflinching, often brutal dope-boy tales can find him struggling against his naturally pessimistic impulses, Gates' default mode is one of squinty-eyed suspicion, and the world he inhabits in his music is one where human connection only leads to betrayal and trust is something that gets you killed.
Kevin Gates spits of playing dumb in the slightly hypnotic “Amnesia,” off his new mixtape By Any Means. While the late Doe B lazes around his condo and shrugs when asked of his Rihanna lookalike’s name, a panicked Gates storms in and spills of how a fairly quiet night—a girl, twerking on him—escalated to a drug-ring operation gone wrong. Yelling, his flow quickening, he recalls pleading the fifth as if he’s still bolting from the scene: “Two shooters, you dummy / I’m coming, get the money / Got a bankroll in this bitch / Amnesia, I have that shit / Ask anything, I forget / Quick!” Just one year ago, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, rapper was eager to indulge his every whim, from spells of Reggae leanings to a Twilight series tribute, on his breakout mixtape, The Luca Brasi Story, released in 2013 before he signed to Atlantic Records.
There is little room for fabrication in Kevin Gates’ music. That’s the topic of “Can’t Make This Up”, the exclamatory fourth song off the Baton Rouge rapper’s latest cracked mirror of a mixtape, By Any Means. Last summer, Gates released the stomach-knotting, intensely vivid “4:30 AM”, which remains his finest moment. But “Can’t Make This Up” spells it all out: his options for a past jail sentence, the week-apart births of two of his children, and other drama.
The city is a cold place. “20 degrees outsiiiiiiide,” Wiki raps again and again on “Snow Beach,” from the first full-length Ratking album, “So It Goes” (Hot Charity/XL). That song — which with its dusty sax loops could have been copied from a cassette of an old Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito radio show — is about warring with the city, about the scrums of pot dealers and N.Y.U.
Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates likes to claim his life is like a movie. He says so all the time. He said it on his booming Stranger Than Fiction single “4:30 AM” and yells it all over the place on his newest tape, By Any Means, which actually features a song called “Movie.” He even told it to the XXL staff when he visited the magazine’s office last fall.
It can be difficult to defend contemporary rap music to an older (and supposedly, wiser) set of listeners still defensive of an art form that, in the past, lived and died on a deep understanding of “the elements. ” All too often, heated arguments end with a shrug and a side-eye to the critic comparing Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ to Migos ‘Versace’, and what can honestly be said in defense? Even Chris Rock would struggle to maintain the value of “My money, my mission/two bitches they kissing” in the face of Chuck D’s “Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps. ” It can be surprising then, when a rapper manages to act as a bridge between the classic and the contemporary without sounding hackneyed or shallow.