Since first emerging with 2018’s mission statement PERIOD, City Girls have been a paragon of sex-positive scam rap, a group by which most other hip-hop artists in their thematic lane are judged. From their early Girl Code hits onwards, the South Floridian duo of JT and Yung Miami spit confidently and without apology about topics that even now come off as provocative or even taboo to some. For their long awaited full-length follow-up to 2020’s City on Lock, they face a wider audience and competition for their style of rapping than ever before. Not surprisingly, RAW more than rises to the occasion, letting everyone in the area know that City Girls remain formidable players in a wave they helped usher into existence. Collaborators from prior efforts like Lil Durk and Tay Keith return, joined on the project by global pop stars Kim Petras and USHER. The presence of these latter artists reflects a shrewd mainstream shift towards a different sort of club than the ones that welcomed “Act Up” or “Flewed Out.” Dance-floor-centric cuts “Flashy” and “Good Love” share space with material closer to the core City Girls ethos, like the explicit “Face Down” and “No Bars.” Given the referential name-checking found on the titular intro, RAW’s production nods to certain hip-hop classics via “I Need a Thug,” “Work for It,” and the Juicy J-featuring “Fancy Ass Bitch” feel like homages, something reinforced by their energy over these familiar yet reconfigured beats.

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