Hunger Games 3

Hunger Games 3

With his tantalizing combination of unsparing and introspective rhymes with gestures from trap, soul, and gospel, St. Petersburg’s Rod Wave was the singing rapper the global hip-hop community didn’t know they needed at the turn of the 2020s. On his breakthrough singles—the gospel-piano-driven “Heart On Ice” and “Green Light,” for instance—he seemed to be triangulating post-Drake melodicism and collaborator Kevin Gates’ emotional transparency, with a more down-home musical influence. Bluesy motifs are threaded through his catchy and melancholic smashes, framing narratives about gang life, grief, family, and relationships. In 2018, Hunger Games 3 was the penultimate entry in a series of four mixtapes that tracked Rod Wave’s ascent to chart juggernaut. It was the rapper’s second tape with major-label backing—namely, from Todd Moscowitz’s Sony imprint Alamo. The project encapsulates the voracious energy of an artist whose tracks were consistently catching fire on the streets and on social media, his confidence bolstered by cosigns from artists he had idolized coming up, including Moneybagg Yo and Kevin Gates. Moneybagg marks the sole feature on Hunger Games 3; as on Hunger Games 2, Rod preferred to fill his somewhat concise projects with showcases of different aspects of his multifaceted style. Several tracks on the tape became phenomena unto themselves, including the Moneybagg cut “Feel the Same Way,” on which the elder rapper compliments Rod’s style: “I ain’t gon’ lie, it feel like I’m in church on this one, like, street gospel.” However, the project’s biggest export by far was “Heart 4 Sale,” incorporating one of Rod’s chief stylistic trademarks: atmospheric, rootsy guitar samples. On the track, he rhymes in extended metaphor about his struggles to hold back his emotions. The mixtape intercuts minor-key, elegiac tracks like these with uptempo jams featuring sunnier, sticky melodies, but the content is no less harrowing. On “Weight on My Shoulders,” Rod touches on complex family dynamics, dissolving romance and mortality: “They left lil’ Marcus at the light for that robbery shit/Tryna live a better life actually cost him his shit/Took him from his wife, took him from his family/Dear mom, I’m sorry, I finally understand it.”

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