Release Date: Jan 29, 2016
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock, Gangsta Rap, Southern Rap, Hardcore Rap
Kevin Gates does not mince words. It's his great gift, really. "I look like I’m balling 'cause I’m really balling," he correctly points out on his radio single "Really Really." As a rapper, he's perfectly comfortable reeling off "lyrical-miracle" technical displays, but his best music is rooted strongly in the 2Pac tradition of blunt-force honesty, and all his best songs emerge straight from the gut.
If Kevin Gates' debut album seems wiser and more confident -- not cocky, but confident -- than the competition, consider that the 2 Pac-styled, serious rapper began dropping his mixtapes back in 2007. His Luca Brasi series is revered and crucial while his aboveground mixtapes Stranger Than Fiction and By Any Means felt official, with hooky thug tracks meeting genre-expanding experiments. Islah is no different, it's just built like an official album and meant to last.
Psssssh, bullshit to rewriting all of this Shakespeare nonsense; even Kevin Gates knows you gotta stick to your own story. Besides, when your stories are as fascinating as Gates’s, then you’re probably better off rewriting English sonnets in emojis. Gates’s music is inseparable from his personal life, loaded with as much drama and intrigue as any New York Times best selling tell-all; he has at once (self-)consciously broached serious topics of depression, suicide, infidelity, and religion in his music.
Way back on the intro to his 2012 mixtape Make ‘Em Believe, Kevin Gates boasted, “I got more than one major willing to sign me.” Before signing with Atlantic Records in 2013, the Baton Rouge native almost joined Young Money, and at the time rumors floated of a bidding war between the two labels for his services. But Atlantic’s handling of Gates since has been somewhat mystifying. Over the next two years, more mixtapes followed — some highlighting his melodic tunefulness (2013’s The Luca Brasi Story) and others prioritizing his faculty for clenched-teeth street rap (2014’s By Any Means) — but rumblings of the full-length major-label debut were few and far between.
You might know Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates for his 2014 workaholic anthem “I Don’t Get Tired (#IDGT)”, his chart-climbing new singles “Really Really” and “2 Phones”, or the notoriety he’s found due to his viral Instagram activity. Or you might know him for the true building blocks to his stardom: the free mixtapes he’s released over the course of the past decade, from 2007’s Pick of Da Litter to last year’s Murder for Hire. Along the way, Gates, now just shy of 30, has refined and reconfigured his sound, placing more and more emphasis on his singing while coming to favor sleeker, more dramatic production from beatmakers like Metro Boomin, Drumma Boy, and Nard & B.
It’s been nearly three years since Kevin Gates signed to Atlantic Records, but he has remained in blog and news headlines the whole time – though it seems rare that it’s been for his music. The N’Awlins native is arguably best known for admitting that he continued to sleep with a woman after finding out she was his cousin, assaulting female fans at shows in Florida and Michigan, and social media antics like uploading a photo of his dead grandmother while covering her mouth with his hand. But he has been making music since 2007 when he came in alongside fellow Louisiana rhymers Webbie and Boosie, and his fans swear by his authenticity.
On his major-label debut, Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates is not afraid to be as flashy, daring and intense as he was on the five acclaimed mixtapes he's released since 2013. He's a rapper's rapper, a lyrical Evel Knievel without any desire for a cloying pop crossover; it should be mentioned that he works with no guest appearance safety nets, save one track on the deluxe edition – ultimately resulting in a cohesive, satisfying, fat-free full-length. His prowess is evident not only in his dizzying lines ("Relationship flaking, no eczema/She catching feelings, she say we inseparable/Oyster Perpetual, it's not a replica"), but in the way his melodic flow glides so naturally, to a point where lyrics can have the sing-song feel of a hook, and a sung chorus can have the swagger of a rap.
Kevin Gates :: IslahBread Winners' AssociationAuthor: Michael G. BarilleauxKevin Gates is a vocal powerhouse. Not in the sense of singing, or in a metaphorical way, but in the sense that his voice exhibits extreme, raw POWER. Many rappers have unmistakable and unforgettable voices (Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Danny Brown, for example) but few have the strength and sheer "BOOM!" of Kevin Gates.
First known for hood smash "I Don't Get Tired (#IDGT)," Baton Rouge, La., rapper Kevin Gates trades in cinema verité pragmatism. Throughout his major label debut, Islah, the MC doubles down on graphic realism, mincing no words. Trapped out and boastful, he informs naysayers of his credentialed realities on "Really, Really." On "2 Phones," he reminds us he writes some of the biggest, catchiest hooks: "I got two phones, one for the plug and one for the load." Gates stands out amongst his peers through his ability to write fully realized songs, versus the normalized attempts to ride waves the production presents.
As he puts it in “Ain’t Too Bad,” the quote that pretty much sums up Kevin Gates is this: “I ain’t too hard to tell you how I feel. ” The Lousiana rapper’s vulnerability is as much a stamp of his realness (and marketability) as those nine shots were to 50 Cent — and, as with 50’s debut, “Islah” translates Gates’s raw mixtape aesthetic into a more versatile, crowd-pleasing major-label package. The album doesn’t shy from its broad ambitions, offering a glossy club jam (“Kno One”) and an after-hours groove (“One Thing”), tracks that require Gates to ease back his flow and craft a knockout hook to carry the song, something he also does on the anthemic “2 Phones.