ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Gates – Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction artwork
Stranger Than Fiction artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Kevin Gates

ALBUM Stranger Than Fiction

LABEL Bread Winners Association

RELEASE DATE 17.7.2013

8.6 | 10

You ain’t got to have a pussy to be a hoe. A hoe is somebody that wants attention from another man. You got a lot of hoes with dicks out here, ya know. – “Die Bout It”

Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates has quickly climbed the hip-hop ladder to become one of the most promising young rappers today. With Stranger Than Fiction, Gates does nothing to slow his roll. If anything, Fiction is going to find Gates spitting his ferocious bars to a larger audience.

That Gates’ has been able to get this far is a testament to his drive and focus. He’s been at the rap game for 7 years now, releasing a steady stream of mixtapes over the years. After the success of his 2013 mixtape The Luca Brasi Story he signed a record deal with Atlantic Records, which for most under-the-radar rappers signals the end of their creative peak. Fortunately Gates doesn’t change one bit for his label, as Fiction finds Gates at his most confessional and emotive.

“4:30AM” served as the lead single of the album, and the song works as a microcosm of  Fiction as a whole. While the rest of the world is either sleeping or coming down from a night of partying, Gates is “puking all of his insides” remembering a fatal shooting he’s tied to. While most rappers concern themselves with appearing “hard” or having “no worries,” Gates is comfortable showing himself to be as emotionally fucked up as the rest of us.

He is also able to balance the line between machismo rap and sincere pleas. On the Juicy J-assisted “Thinking With My Dick,” Gates raps about a woman who “ain’t too pretty in the face but she super thick. I’m just thinkin with my dick,” over a series of bleeps and bloops. It’s the closest thing 2013 has come to recreating the magic of “Bandz A Make Her Dance.” Elsewhere, Gates does more thinking with his other head, such as on the excellent “Smiling Faces.” The song is the type that Drake has spent his entire career trying to master. But where Drake loses credibility courtesy of his Degrassi days, Gates’ relatively unknown past adds a layer of menace to his lyrics. “Faces” is another track that has Gates expressing his vulnerability, where he raps “I need a woman to hold me, help me forget all my problems.” It’s a complete 180 from “Thinking With My Dick,” with Gates more than willing to let his woman be the one providing shelter and security. Later on in the song, he gives a nod to Drake when he raps, “It’s 5 AM in Toronto but she down here for college.” It’s right after that where Gates delivers perhaps his greatest moment on the album, as he furiously raps (shouts), “My anxiety be fucking with me. Every bitch I’m with find out I ain’t shit after three weeks of just fuckin’ with me.” By the time you finish listening to Fiction, it becomes apparent that the prospect of losing everything in the flash of an eye is one Gates has examined many times before. And it’s that fear that’s driven him to this point.

Throughout Stranger Than Fiction, Kevin Gates’ ability to create catchy, 3+ minute bursts  of authentic hip-hop shows that the emcee is more than ready for his 15 minutes. Gates’ rasped vocals add grit to the record, while his ability to imbed rather nonconventional melodies to his music will no doubt serve him well as he looks at capturing the attention of a wider audience. One of the notable tracks that showcases those tendencies include “Die Bout It,” where Gates goes off for a solid 4 minutes, equally threatening and hypnotizing. It’s an incredible display of unbridled emotion, with every word a part of Gates’ healing process.

Kevin Gates, while a mainstay in Baton Rouge’s hip-hop scene, had for the first six or so years of his career remained a mystery to people outside of southeast Louisiana. Gates has been able to defy the odds and not only remain a fixture in the scene, but expanding his empire as well. While other regional rappers such as Lil Boosie and Lil Snupe have ended up incarcerated or the victims of gun violence, KG has stayed with us, now acting as a voice for those without one. Who would have thought a rapper from Baton Rouge could be hip-hop’s saving grace? It certainly is stranger than fiction.


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