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Louisiana rapper makes few compromises on a tough, emotional major-label debut

Kevin Gates

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 18: Rapper Kevin Gates performs at StreetzFest2k15 at Masquerade Music Park & Historic Fourth Ward Park on April 18, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/WireImage)

Prince Williams/WireImage/Getty

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. Within this artful framework, Gates explores deep emotional valleys. Unglamourous tales of drug-dealing and prison stays sit next to lyrics about depression and suicidal thoughts. The recent newlywed has love songs, but they’re peppered with years of rockiness, battles with macho pride, sleepless nights, intimacy issues and covering his insecurities with designer clothes. “I’ve been misused,” he says over the yearning country-rap guitars of on “Hard For,” “what the fuck you want my heart for?”

In This Article: Kevin Gates

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