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Kevin Gates update

kevin gates ymcmb

Originally published at Passionweiss.

Kevin Gates is so good at rapping that the XXL Freshman ’14 cover could have been a close-up of his face. Few MCs combine lucid crime recollections, vulnerable introspection and speaker knockers quite like the Baton Rouge renegade. While the Passionweiss squad works on converting the site into an unofficial KG focus group, I’ve taken on the enviable task of sharing with you a few of his latest releases in the lead up to Luca Brasi 2.

Fellow Southerner Trae The Truth featured Gates on “Dark Angel,” and released the video last week. Despite a cameo from Lil Bibby instead of Jessica Alba and trying a little too hard to be cinematic, it’s worth a watch. KG starts off with a lengthy verse that covers more interesting topics in two minutes than many artists do on a whole album. Gates performs a soliloquy referencing belief in a higher power, struggles with drug use and trying to sate a mourning family’s loss with money. The 28 year old also boldly admits to sexual inadequacy, which is something even less heard in rap than stringed instruments. Although it doesn’t have the same emotional impact, Trae’s verse shouldn’t be ignored either. He does an admirable job of following up Kevin’s powerful testimony, delivering solid tales of struggle with his trademark rapid-fire flow.

Next up is the video for “Posed To Be In Love,” which was included on this year’s mixtape By Any Means and may or may not have been shot using an iPhone camera. Some listeners felt Gates’ decision to discuss domestic violence glorified spousal assault, but the track is more complex than the knee-jerk reaction it inspires. It’s fair to assume with an artist as self-aware Gates, that he includes nuances to the story for a reason. Kevin mentions stalking and an obsession with his female counterpart to cement his character as a deranged lover rather than someone to be revered.

While not the best decision to release visuals for a tale of battery when he could have chosen another single, the clip does further distance KG from the story. He’s seen as an observer in the video rather than the protagonist. Like many great artists his lyrics are capable of inspiring a range of emotions including shock, awe and sometimes revulsion.

Thankfully Gates also left us with a few gems before hitting the road and he’s yet to show any signs of creative burnout aka “Mixtape Circuit Syndrome.” Listen below for his menacing OG Bobby Johnson freestyle, the threatening croak of “Nothing” and finally the hypnotic “Cut Her Off” freestyle. You’re welcome.


Edit: Gates' new track with Lil Bibby included above. 

Kevin Gates - By Any Means review

kevin gates by any means

By me and originally written for Passionweiss

Heavily inked, emotionally scarred and fresh out of the slammer, Kevin Gates returns with 16 bi-polar bangers. By Any Means is less personal than last year’s Stranger Than Fiction and The Luca Brasi Story, but the Louisiana’s rappers remains one of the best young gangsta rappers this side of the Mississippi. Gates has the hooks, the singing, the story and the passion. Of course, it helps that he’s been blessed with the rare combination of versatile vocal chords and awareness of how to use them. From his threatening croak on standout “Homicide” to the palpable sincerity on “Movie,” KG is as far removed from one-dimensional MCs as it gets.

The 28 year old also defies the tradition that rappers need to be invincible. His willingness to showcase flaws is a large part of what makes his music compelling. Gates covers depression, anxiety, self-doubt and a slew of other pitfalls rarely touched on in rap. Add in his penchant for including vivid real life details from his turbulent past and you’ve got a killer combo. Whether it’s because he’s attempting to make a mainstream friendly project or because he’s saving material so that the relentless mixtape circuit doesn’t end in creative burn out, these details aren’t quite as apparent on this record as they were on his 2013 output. There are no epic tales of attempted murder by best friends like “4.30am” or cinematic true-life tales of crime ala “iHop” on here. You’ve got to listen a little closer, but it’s worth the effort.

 Gates adds humanity to what could have been a generic hustling theme on “Wish I Had.” Instead of lazily attributing his motivation to the American Dream aka wanting to get rich, he phrases the chorus in a more relatable way and it takes on a redemptive quality. “Out my window, I see everything I dream about and wish I had.” During the song, he also acknowledges his self-consciousness at being a two-time felon, desperately wanting to write a hit and being a good person that can transform in the wrong circumstances.

Later on “Sposed to Love” there’s more mention of this duality of character and the imperfection he’s willing to display on record. Gates is passionately in love and deeply offended when his partner doesn’t answer the phone, but he’s also bordering on the obsessive and admits to hitting her in the heat of the moment. The realistic portrayal of domestic violence undoubtedly makes it the most divisive track on the album. Some listeners may feel he’s condoning this behavior as he comes across as cocky rather than apologetic, but references to Chris Brown, stalking and jail make it clear he’s aware of his moral wrongdoing.

Musical psychoanalysis aside, this tape is also trunk rattling. Get Em Gates understands the quandaries presented by turning down for no good reason. As one of the chosen few who isn’t overshadowed by Juicy J and 2 Chainz on his own jams, he can rap with the best from planet Versace. Despite his currently unproven mainstream appeal, “Don’t Know” and “Arm And Hammer” have the type of hypotonic hooks you’ll find yourself accidently reciting during work meetings or on the subway. Along with his chameleon vocals and a healthy dose of neuroticism, part of what makes Gates listenable is his varied delivery style. He’ll switch flow several times, moving within seconds from Migos inspired double-time to shouting threats down your ear canal.

With a hulking audio presence, Gates doesn’t need to rely on features and thankfully he hasn’t succumbed to this cheap tactic. For the most part, the guests are used sparingly and fit in nicely. The late Doe B in particular shines with his effortless flow during “Paranoid,” making it all the more obvious the world was robbed of the 22 year old’s potential. Then of course, there’s Plies. He doesn’t quite ruin “Keep Fucking With Me” by spitting a marble mouthed verse, but he definitely comes close.

 Being locked up on a three-year gun charge partially derailed Gates’ career during the mid-2000s. But he also claims long periods in jail gave him the opportunity to form his unique rhyming style. In an interview with HipHop Dx, he said prison changed his attitude toward music too “I want the Rap game when I come home. You never know how much something means to you until you can’t do it. “Personal issues have made him both great and imperfect. Few have a darker past than Kevin Gates, but few have a brighter future.