Rich Slave

Rich Slave

The title of Young Dolph's Rich Slave instantly sets up a kind of duality that directly confronts the legacy of racism and capitalism central to America. Dolph's catalog is filled with songs that hinge on self-made narratives about how he got to the money by any means necessary, and this album is no exception. But under the provocation of its name, such themes feel more contradictory than ever. Tracks like “I See $'s” and “Death Row” contrast wealth with misery or at least an ongoing ambivalence about the true costs of financial success. Even when the lyrics are at their most triumphant (“Used to sign for the packs, now I sign T-shirts and posters/Drop 500 racks to drop the top on that new roadster” as on “Hold Up Hold Up Hold Up”), the rapper's matter-of-fact cadence sounds as if he's unfazed. That tension comes to a head on “The Land,” which makes explicit the wages of being Black in America, wealthy or not, and on the title track: “All them diamond chains, he look like a rich slave.” Still, even with all of this unease lingering, the album isn't nearly as weighty as it might suggest. Dolph has always had a sardonic sense of humor that sets up one-liners as quotable as they are comedic and offsets his darker musings (“Lately I've been hearing a lot of voices in my head/It woke me straight up out my sleep and said go buy a Lam”). “CrayCray” is standard s**t-talk, while “RNB,” which features a spirited verse from Megan Thee Stallion, brims with flirty bravado. These flashes of levity hearken back to earlier Dolph tracks, but Rich Slave stands as his most explicitly introspective work. The pair of skits early in the album may offer the most illuminating glimpse into his mindset, as both trace the rapper's attempts to reconnect with the past—his own and that of his hometown, Memphis. The conversations between a family friend and Dolph are candid and humorous, with the elder sharing memories of Dolph's father; taken in context, they ground the album and suggest a quest for something deeper than just menace and boasts.

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