Steel Human

Steel Human

Mobile rap star NoCap had a breakout year in 2019. The spring saw the release of single “Ghetto Angels,” his first Platinum hit. By the end of the year, Cap had dropped two full-length solo mixtapes with major label support, each of which thoroughly outlined the particulars of a signature melodic trap sound that was highly distinctive lyrically and musically. Mixtape Steel Human, NoCap’s first salvo of 2020, finds the rapper making the most of his heightened profile. Its 16 tracks boast a slicker and more varied palette, high-end features (DaBaby, Lil Uzi Vert), and exhilarating moments where the rapper pushes himself well beyond his comfort zone. Happily, Steel Human also contains plenty of the blues-and-gospel-inflected unsparing trap music he was becoming known for. Steel Human stands as NoCap’s most extensive and stylistically adventurous project to date, the rapper casting his net wide for maximum appeal. As in his earlier work, hard-hitting autobiographical raps are underscored by moody beats based around guitar and piano embellishments. The richly imagistic “Lean On Me,” a collaboration with his favored producer CashMoneyAp, is perhaps the most canonical example, at once breezy and brutal: “I had prayed a hundred times, I was still worried/He washed that stick a hundred times, it was still dirty … I know it helped me when you changed, but it’s still hurtin’/I had to fire all my feelings, it just wasn’t workin.” There are moments on Steel Human where Cap plays against type or pushes his skill set: flexing over bubbly production of pre-release viral smash “Count a Million” with Lil Uzi Vert—NoCap’s highest-profile feature to date—or finding his pocket over the erratic, mathy piano and drum interaction on “Jail Time.” These tracks frequently sound more cosmopolitan than country-fried, but are no less effective for it. The Mobile rapper also indulges in lighter moments than on any of his previous releases: see the seductive R&B crooner “Spinal Chords,” supported by earnest melismas from Atlanta crooner Jacquees, and the aptly titled “Instagram Models,” which juxtaposes images of sex, gang life, and the come-up in unlikely ways, plus the banner NoCap riddle: “If I leave the game, will my Xbox love me?”

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