Shiesty Season: Certified

Shiesty Season: Certified

Pooh Shiesty’s music is all about the tension between competing impulses. On “Certified,” the opening song from his breakout mixtape, 2021’s Shiesty Season: Certified, the Memphis rapper and Atlanta’s Gunna trade verses that ping back and forth between posturing and self-analysis. So it’s fitting that between lines where Shiesty offers prayers for departed friends and recounts scenes of staggering violence in uncomfortable detail, we can actually hear the chains on his neck clank against one another—and picture them swaying as he stands in the recording booth, ready to rappel back down into his memory. This duality places Shiesty squarely in the lineage of rappers from his hometown. In the 1990s and especially during its late-2010s resurgence, the Memphis scene produced artists who know how to imbue kinetic club records with a sense of real-life stakes, or how to make sure even the most contemplative, minor-key exercises in autobiography retain a little bounce. Shiesty’s knack for sounding loose—lyrically but also vocally; he’s able to hold together complicated rhythmic patterns while seeming to rap off the cuff—is perhaps what caught the attention of Gucci Mane, one of hip-hop’s great purveyors of spontaneity (and most unimpeachable talent scouts). In 2020, Gucci signed Shiesty to Atlantic Records and to his own 1017 Records imprint. Shiesty Season: Certified is the rare record that is equally enrapturing when experienced in total or piecemeal as a sampling of what an emerging artist has to offer. Shiesty is a frequent and chameleonic collaborator; on songs with A-listers like Lil Durk, Gucci, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert, and 21 Savage, or with fellow upstarts like Veeze, Foogiano, and fellow Memphis natives BIG30 and Big Scarr, Shiesty molds himself into a complementary force, making his delivery more knotty and clipped to contrast with Baby’s rolling legato or sinking into something tranquil to coax the most aggressive take from G Herbo. And yet this is more than an exercise in teamwork. Shiesty’s verses on those songs and the frequently harrowing solo cuts reveal someone in deep conflict about the forces that made him who he is today, but resolute about where he’s headed next.

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