Role Model

Role Model

Before his tragic passing in 2021, Young Dolph was one of the more impressive self-made success stories in modern trap music. Without a major viral moment or a major-label contract, the prolific Memphis MC and independent label head had become a mentor to numerous rising rappers and a rap star on his own terms. He accomplished this largely by flooding his fans with product, releasing a variety of mixtapes, albums, EPs, and collaborative projects every year, and by being a go-to feature for some of the industry’s biggest artists. On his fourth album, Role Model, Dolph reflects on his slow and steady rise, facilitated without a sellout moment, and gloats about his untouchability. Maintaining the laser-focused style of most Dolph’s projects, the LP is a set of creeping, no-frills trap anthems, with Dolph’s charisma oozing through his sneering similes and autobiographical asides. Though it foregrounds lighthearted swagger and X-rated anecdotes, the album takes place in the shadow of high-profile violent incidents involving Dolph in the previous couple of years—most notably, a Los Angeles shooting in 2017 that left him in critical condition. In the midst of broad-strokes trash talk, Dolph lapses into more reflective modes. On highlight "On God," he vacillates in the span of a couplet between self-interrogation and talking big: "Why I always give and don't never want nothin' back?/Why I'm missin' time with my kids? 'Cause I’m chasin’ these stacks." The implication of Dolph’s album title is embodied by the release’s biggest hit: "Major," a relaxed, flex-heavy jam highlighting Dolph’s Paper Route Empire signee Key Glock. Here, Glock pays tribute to his label and its head; Dolph speaks to his son in the future about success and advocates for diversifying income flow. (The two would go on to release an entire collaborative project, Dum and Dummer, the following year.) Elsewhere, Dolph plays the up-and-comer holding his own against legends: The Snoop Dogg collaboration "I Think I Can Fly" makes little sense on paper, but it finds the two bonding over a mutual love of getting faded.

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