YoungBoy Never Broke Again has a nasty trifecta of scar tissue—like a trio of keloidal tally marks—on his forehead, hinting that he’s done some time with serious pain. The scars are from a childhood tussle gone awry. But the bruised passion and conviction you hear on Sincerely, Kentrell, his third album, stems from an adolescence spent in and out of detention centers and prisons. He’s currently incarcerated (from a drugs-and-weapons case he caught in March). But the songs here sound like exuberant confessionals.
A day before the album’s release, the Baton Rouge-based rapper shared a poem from his jail cell titled “Deep In Me.” The letter, carefully scrawled on a legal pad (and posted on social media), ended with a promise: “My flaws mean all to me.”
And on opener “Bad Morning,” he reflects on some of his regrets. Over somber pianos and a soulful organ, he admits, “I ain’t got nothin’ I wanna do better with my life, but take narcotics with my life.” It’s a sentiment—brutal honesty as a form of healing—that’s also expressed on “I Can’t Take It Back,” where he raps, “Tryna do better for my girl, feel like my heart made of steel/Three million for my children apiece, that’s my goal for this year.”
His style, a whimsical mix of Young Thug and fellow New Orleanian Little Wayne is heavy on melody, which he fuses with some rough-and-tumble grit. On the angsty “Toxic Punk,” the chorus, a sticky stoner-like mantra, solidifies it as a legit festival staple. But beneath the pop-friendly sheen is a gritty recounting of some of his recent run-ins: “Ridin’ fast, police on my ass, uh/Do the dash, hopin’ I don’t crash.”
“50 Shots” boasts a litany of threats (”Got fifty shots, two separate sticks, plan on making shit irrelevant”). But there’s a restless verve to the tense, TayTayMadeIt-produced track that makes it infectious. It’s a history of violence NeverBrokeAgain YoungBoy maps out here, to be sure. But you don’t mind if it repeats itself.
The titular “Sincerely” finds the man born Kentrell DeSean Gaulden singing, “Fuck that Rolls-Royce, ooh/I just wanna lose this cold heart, ooh/I just wanna say I apologize/For all of the things I put you through.” It ends on a high note though (”I’m staying strong now, don’t worry about me”), suggesting that he’s found redemption despite his painful past. If these are the proverbial scars YoungBoy Never Broke Again ’s chosen to reveal to us, they’re from battles, thankfully, he’s already won.