Review Summary: A wise man also told me that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. I'm up in focus.
Hip-Hop mixtapes are a very discordant subject, aren't they? With most mixtapes, it's an absurd amount of tracks packed into one disc, and they only contain five or six songs actually worth listening to. Artists such as pre-2008 Lil Wayne is a great example of this. Others don't even contain a single lyric worth of palpable material (Looking at you Gucci Mane). However, and it is very small sample size, there are mixtapes that can take upward to a couple of months to let the greatness of every track fully sink in. In recent memory, mixtapes such as Danny Brown's 'XXX,' and Joey Bada$$'s '1999' come to mind. Welcome in Kevin Gates, "The Luca Brasi Story" as the newest addition to that list.
Naming your mixtape after a hitman from one of the greatest films ever made is definitely something that will raise interest. Luca Brasi was one of the more interesting minor characters in Coppola's classic, for at one point he is a cold blooded killer without any remorse and the next he is the sentimental friend of Mr. Corleone where he is seen struggling to figure out the best way to give Don's daughter her birthday present. Gates clearly plays off of these two sides that Luca shows, evident on his street life tracks such as the synth pulsing "Paper Chasers" or the trap-beat heavy "Hold Ya Head." But where he excels in his street life philosophies , the biggest surprise comes in the matter of heartfelt tracks showcasing his other side. This sentimental side correlating with thug life isn't something out of the ordinary with hip-hop, however doing it well is. And Kevin Gates does it with such excellence that instead of sounding corny like most emcees, he sounds conflicted; making what he is saying sound human. Human
. An aspect rarely found in the hip-hop scene that loves to indulge itself with the money they are making often creating a disconnect with any of its listeners emotions. Whether it's the cracking of Gates voice compounded with emotionally unstable lyrics such as, "Burn all of my belongings if you can't figure it out/I don't really need those things anyhow" on "Arms of a Stranger" or lyrical tidbit, "Got two people livin' in me/ one the realest one a killer/ Luca Brasi, he a sinner/ Kevin trynna' be a Christian" on "Countin' On Ya" the idea that Gates is truly conflicted is a main theme throughout.
The Luca Brasi Story outdoes itself on the production side. Heard through crystal clear trap beats, the mixtape excels throughout. The bass-pounding, electronic synths on tracks like "Paper Chasers" and "Just Ride" fit the street anthem songs to a tee and the sorrowful, contemplative backgrounds to "Arms of a Stranger" and "Marshall Mathers" set the mood exceptionally. Kevin Gates vocal delivery is a mash up of Drake's sing/rap style with a voice that has a slight resemblance to Future's raspy crooning. Not exactly the best sounding mixture on paper, but its comes across a lot better than it reads. Technically-wise, Gates has a varied style, keeping the record as a whole fresh. His stop and go flow on "Paper Chasers" almost sounds like he is holding back a hiccup and sounds like it would be painful to actually do, and his Drake style talk-rap comes off well. Altogether he really does a nice job of maintaining the listeners attention throughout.
Now to say that the tape is without flaws would be a lie. The 22-tracks that cover a span of an hour and fifteen minutes are not all perfect. "Ugly But She Fine" is excruciatingly bad and should have never found its way on the tape. Elsewhere, the traps beats can at times feel like a retread into "I've heard that before" especially on "Flex" and "What's Understood." These experiences are, gratefully, few and far in between that it never really detracts the listener.
Yes, the mixtape is overlong. Yes, it is trap rap. And yes, it is also very, very good
. In its entirety, with exception to a few tracks, it is near perfect for a mixtape. Basically a ghost here on Sputnik, Kevin Gates showcases a mixtape that is going under the radar to a user base that seemingly prides itself on knowing the unknown. Well I'm here to welcome you to The Luca Brasi Story as told by Kevin Gates. And it's a story that is deserving to be put into the conversation for best hip-hop release of 2013.
Best Tracks: Paper Chasers, Hold Ya Head, Marshall Mathers