Luca Brasi 2: A Gangsta Grillz Special Edition
The original Luca Brasi Story arrived in 2013—the culmination of an athletic run of independent mixtapes from Baton Rouge hero-in-the-making Kevin Gates. The tape was the clearest indicator to date of his ability as both a lyricist and melodist. The following year, its sequel would represent how much he had developed and risen in profile since that project’s release. Luca Brasi 2 would prove to be a major rung on the ladder in Gates’ climb toward significant commercial success (his 2016 major-label debut LP, Islah). The mixtape delivered the grab bag of hard-nose trap bangers and cinematic, pop-forward tracks that made Gates both more distinctive and more palpable to a wider range of hip-hop fans than many of his Southern street-rap contemporaries. The project’s success was partially based on “I Don’t Get Tired (#IDGT),” featuring August Alsina, which mined one of Gates’ ongoing catchphrases to create a sticky, radio-ready jam. Tracks like “Wassup With It” followed in this widescreen, anthemic vein, narrowing in on the topic of one-night stands. “Plug Daughter,” meanwhile, combines pop immediacy with the kind of blues-inflected hook that distinguishes Gates’ melodicism from other rappers in his field. Elsewhere, Gates shows that his technical skill has never been higher; on “Sit Down” and “Don’t Panic,” his flows are pyrotechnic and his delivery forbidding, proving that the menacing, street rap–reared aspect of his musical personality can’t be diluted, even as he embraces higher budgets and industry attention. Nor is there any avoiding Gates’ particular eccentricities, and this release is full of moments that exemplify the reasons he was never fully able to blend into the crowd of Southern trap voices. See “Makin Love,” on which his voice sounds like a subterranean rasp as he elides romance and sex with street business (“And I'm married to my hustle, makin' love/And ain't nothin' in this world could break us up“), or the startlingly explicit “Wild Ride.” Track to track, Luca Brasi 2 is one of the most varied and unpredictable rides in Gates’ discography. It is the work of an artist who knows he is on the cusp of rap-game domination and who is relishing his ability to explore new directions while still retaining his incomparable, larger-than-life personality.