Young Dolph announced himself to the rap community at large as the “King of Memphis” on his 2016 debut studio album of the same name. The title, of course, was a provocation, gaining him the immediate ire of his peers in his city’s hip-hop scene. Gelato, his second mixtape after KoM, documents his fraught come-up with bigger-than-life punchlines, a smattering of superstar guest spots and in-demand producers, and an unrepentant diss track (the Yo Gotti–targeting “Play Wit Yo Bitch”). The reaction to the song’s release would solidify Gelato’s reputation as Dolph’s most notorious project. Though the tape is most remembered for the feud it fueled, it also contains some of Dolph’s most distinctive tracks and compelling lyrical conceits. The tape’s first single, “Bagg,” is all blustery, noir-tinged atmosphere, and it finds Dolph embracing some eccentric production techniques, with his ad libs pitch-shifted chipmunk-style and ATLien Lil Yachty offering support. Other tracks like the Wiz Khalifa–featuring hit “On the River” and “Baller Alert” are more standard-issue Dolph at his most quotable, unassuming initially but full of clever juxtapositions and sharp imagery. There’s nothing subliminal about the vicious digs in “Play Wit Yo Bitch,” which makes specific references to Dolph’s hometown adversary (“Ho Gotti”), mocking his labelmates, venomously spoofing his beef with the rapper V Slash, and more. Days after the video for the track was released, Dolph’s SUV was shot at over 100 times. This was the first salvo of violence directed at him in the late 2010s but not the last. It’s difficult to listen to some of these lines in the wake of Dolph’s untimely passing in 2021. Still, Gelato demonstrates the degree to which the rapper’s defiant lyrical perspective and live-wire energy resulted in some of the best no-frills trap music of the mid-2010s.

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