Realer 2

Realer 2

For a razor-toothed mixtape, Realer 2 is, to a surprising extent, a family affair. The record was announced before its release by YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s beloved mother, Sherhonda, and the only feature across its 15 songs is from the Baton Rouge rapper’s partner, Jaz, the mother of two of his children. Normally a chameleonic collaborator, YoungBoy chooses instead to seal himself off from the outside world, letting his own tics and neuroses set the parameters for what listeners might expect—which is to say, he seems to revel keeping those listeners off balance. See the way, on “DentHead,” cascading runs seem to stop dead so YoungBoy can collect himself, or how, on “Boot Up,” an extended discussion of guns melts into a frank discussion of his dating philosophies. Over and over, YoungBoy blurs the lines between one song and the next, so that—despite sharp musical divergences—his trains of thought seem to constantly collide. One of YoungBoy’s great gifts as a writer is his keen understanding of how to manipulate the stakes. Frequently in his records, grisly events—ones he remembers from his childhood and adolescence, or ones he’s threatening to visit upon his enemies—are stacked in such quick sucession so as to have a dizzying effect, or to serve as a performance of stoicism. Alternately, there are times, such as on Realer 2’s “Dangerous Love,” when two juxtaposed images—in this case, YoungBoy as a child enveloped in his grandmother’s arms, then the adult rapper sitting in court after being denied bond—are allowed to carry staggering emotional weight. Realer 2 also features one of the oddest and most endearing songs in YoungBoy’s vast catalog. “Fresh Prince of Utah,” a riff on the Will Smith original, traces the artist’s journey from North Baton Rouge to Salt Lake City, where he later endured a stint under house arrest. It is neither novelty nor true inversion; YoungBoy is somehow able to retain the Fresh Prince sense of playfulness while making clear that his problems wouldn’t wrap themselves up tidily at the end of a 22-minute episode.

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