Netflix’s inspirational documentary on YoungBoy Never Broke Again would probably look something like this: He was a teenager constantly fucked by the legal system and therefore made an outcast by the music industry, but despite that, he became l ‘one of the greatest rappers in the world; although this story may be a bit true, its simplicity smooths out any rough edges. The sad reality is that its popularity wasn’t born just because the music is good, which it often is, but it was also fueled by fans’ obsession with authenticity and realism.
Earlier in March, the FBI rushed at the 21-year-old Baton Rouge rap star and charged him with weapons and drugs. It may not seem like anything new, but it was, especially since his lawyers claimed it was a targeted message sent by the FBI, which does not seem out of place to the infamous cops. hip-hop. His first album in almost a year, Sincerely, Kentrell, arrives while still in prison, arriving with minimal promotion (there were even rumors that YouTube, the platform where his music took off, refused to support his album). All of this only intensifies a well-crafted, but ethically questionable branding embraced by his team and Atlantic Records: he’s a rebel who scratches and scratches to make his voice heard as the powers that be try to do so. to hush up.
It’s hard to consider Kentrell without this baggage. He blurred the lines between his rap character and lived reality, making him uncomfortable, but sometimes remarkable listening. He raps coldly about prison and violence as if it were fate. On “Forgiato” he says aggressively: “Since a child, in and out of chains, swears they don’t know my pain / I don’t know who tries to make me work one night, I don’t sleep with it my rod. Meanwhile, he constantly tries to put those dark thoughts aside, usually distracting himself with unhealthy relationships and drug abuse: girlfriend who is fed up with his unpredictable behavior. “But I won’t let them go. alone if you leave me alone. ”It’s hopeless, manipulative and scary.
Somehow, Kentrell is not that different from any other YoungBoy project. There’s a plan to it and he’s sticking to it, which also means it has the same flaws as his previous job. Once again, the sometimes forgettable production contains too many ’90s R&B ballad pianos and cheap acoustic guitars. It’s not like these types of beats can’t be played well, but the ones he chooses sound like familiar versions of instrumentals best performed by other producers. Take “Life Support”, it’s basically a Zaytoven beat but without any improvisation or personality that makes a mixtape like Beast mode so distinct. The scintillating “Rich Shit” sounds like a wheezy-type beat in the worst possible way, and the piano riff of “Level I Want to Reach” is so basic it’s frustrating. Even though the beats of YoungBoy mixtapes are mostly an afterthought, is it really too much to wish for more inspired choices like “White Teeth,” which has a bounce on drums that resembles the start of Mannie Fresh?
As a writer he has a bad habit of telling us what we feel instead of making us feel it. His emotions are more authentic through tension in his melody or sudden bursts of howling than when he simply says the words “pain” or “injury”. It happens when he stops singing softly halfway through “My Killa” for a sudden outburst of anger, or the way he says to himself “I’m not doing drugs right now, that’s the truth” , as if he was shouting for help on “Nevada”. These moments elevate his writing and set him apart from the wave of southern rappers singing about their pain, trauma, and struggle.
Spotting places where songwriting or production could be enhanced seems trivial when thinking about such raw and intimate music. He bares his soul over and over again, and here I am saying pianos should be more interesting. (They should be!) This conflict is what made the popularity of YoungBoy’s music so confusing to those who don’t pay him much attention. While the quality of the album may vary from song to song, it all gives a startling glimpse of a larger-than-life character whose tragic shadow stretches everything he touches.
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