The Ceremony

The Ceremony

Let it not be understated that the bleeding-heart Baton Rouge MC contains multitudes. Since emerging from Louisiana’s mid-2000s street-rap scene, Gates has never shied away from revealing the many facets of his complicated psyche: A self-proclaimed depressive introvert who earned a master’s degree in psychology in prison, he’s a stone-cold killer, pensive philosopher, hopeless romantic, and freaky lothario—sometimes all at once. In the decade since he blew up with 2013’s The Luca Brasi Story, Gates’ style of warbly, diaristic-pain rap has become more commercially viable than maybe ever, but The Ceremony, his first studio release since 2022’s Khaza, makes the case that the 37-year-old veteran is willing to take it where other rappers dare not follow. (Exhibit A: “Ceremony,” on which he follows up a meditation on manifestation and energy flow with an update on his semen retention practice.) One minute, he’s grappling with suicidal ideation; the next, he’s claiming to have borrowed a pair of God’s house shoes. And then he’s ready to party, as on “Yonce Freestyle,” where he delivers the inspired hook (“Beyoncé concert, I’m beyond turnt”) in the style of a Hot Boy circa ’98, with cameos from B.G. and the hood’s hottest princess herself, Sexyy Red.

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