Following the success of songs such as, Drip Too Hard and Sold Out Dates earlier this year, Atlanta rappers Lil Baby and Gunna joined forces on Drip Harder, their 2018 collaborative album carrying on from their individual projects “Drip” and “Hard”.
Although the two have collaborated before (Chanel, Harder Than Ever ), this is their first full length project together. Created under the watchful eyes of their proud father, Young Thug (AKA Sex AKA Jeffery), the influence and direction here is so obvious it hurts. Think Kid Cudi/Travis Scott or Nas/ J Cole. Both Lil Baby and Gunna may not be the biological sons of Thugger, but they’re doing their best to be seen that way by making use of similar word manipulation and note bending- that’s not a bad thing. Signed to Young Stoner Life Records, owned by Thugger and part of 300 Entertainment, this is his venture into the world of management, perhaps (maybe for the worst) taking advice from music industry tycoon and master manipulator, Birdman.
Gunna and Lil Baby work so well together because they offer different things- Lil Baby goes for more guttural raps, often off beat and sounding like a sawn off, giving the album that classic trap feel that has become so popular, while Gunna offers the melodic relief that has been popularised by Drake, Lil Uzi and Young Thug. Gunna’s consistent bend of notes at the end of the bars in “Business is Business” and “Belly” help to develop the otherwise lethargic beats. The balance here is right, the mood dark enough with the deep swirling bass throughout the project and Gunna’s refrains coupled nicely with the different use of wind instruments and synths aren’t pushed to the extreme say in a song from Lil Uzi or Juice WRLD.
Although the album boasts an impressive production list, with credits including Tay Keith (Look Alive, Sicko Mode), Turbo (Drip Too Hard, Yosemite) and Wheezy (Yes Indeed, Chanel (Go Get It), some of the production feels lazy in the drum patterns themselves; the same hi-hat being used for practically every song; not as many interesting samples as I would have expected from Young Thug prodigies. A lot of time it feels that the producer has just copy and pasted stuff he had lying about on his hard drive, haphazardly making additions without being bespoke to the artists.
This album isn’t acting as if it’s the next Watch the Throne, but it’s honest. Gunna and Lil Baby rap about their faith, the exceptional life they lead in comparison to the come up and Pateks- rapping their experiences and while on the surface it looks shallow, that is the reality of trap and hip hop today. Artists are instead focusing on how to sound different rather than say something different.
Whilst I enjoyed the album, I found it hard to differentiate between tracks and artists sometimes (maybe that’s an ode to how well the two work with the features). It felt like it was lacking some real in-your-face or even funny bars and was clearly let down by some of the production, pushing them into the trap of Migos where I hope they find their way out through expressing more individuality. This album, however, showed serious promise.