Not too much new material here for die-hard Gates fans. Still, it's undoubtedly more of the gripping content only their man can deliver--painting his Louisiana locales as some of the scariest places on earth.
The first Luca Brasi Story, released last February, put Kevin Gates on the map. Soon after, he quietly inked a partnership with Atlantic and a management deal with Young Money. He put out another excellent mixtape, Stranger Than Fiction, months later, and he’s had a similar 2014 in terms of output: two mixtapes, both excellent. Though he was one of twelve XXL Freshmen this year, Gates is no rookie. He’s been hot on the streets of Baton Rouge and New Orleans since 2008, with his single “Get In the Way” alongside Lil Boosie. Soon after, though, both men (in separate cases) would be sent to prison; Gates served 31 months, and Boosie, to our surprise, re-entered society early this year. Gates is now well on his way to becoming a household name, but still has no album in sight. For fans of Gates, though, this isn’t disconcerting his all. He’s made it this far with mixtapes alone, and his body of work is 100% his own. All of Gates’ mixtapes are on available for free download, but you can purchase them on iTunes as well. By Any Means, put out in March, debuted number 17 on the charts, ahead of most major label rap releases. This should signal that it’s worth a few bucks, and Brasi 2 is no different.
Luca Brasi was the main enforcer for the Corleone family in The Godfather. He was the silent, ever-loyal muscle behind Don Corleone’s entire operation. Behind the noble exterior of New York’s most well-respected crime family, there’s an unseen world of brutal violence and countless murders carried out by the never-second-guessing Luca Brasi. Gates, unlike other rappers, would never posit himself as Don Corleone. He’s got no entourage, and he does all the dirty work himself. A self-proclaimed introvert, the only time Gates shares his visions is through his music. And on Brasi 2 we get the story-- blood, guts, and all.
A Gates mixtape is not your average mixtape. While these songs won’t get any radio play, most of them belong on an album. In fact, Gates slowly dripped the mixtape’s biggest songs in the months prior to its release. We heard “Out the Mud,” which placed #16 on our top songs of the year, back in July. A month later came “John Gotti,” in which he takes his character adoptions past fiction as he channels the legendary NYC crime boss. A month before the release date, he leaked “I Don’t Get Tired” and “Perfect Imperfection,” and one might wonder why he didn’t just make an EP out of the four aforementioned tracks.
Gates begins Brasi 2 ringing a close associate of his (though later, “Talk On Phones” is all about how he refuses to use phones...). Anyway, he asks for a “favor,” and we already know what it is: “one of them.” Then immediately we get Gates at his most furious, two minutes straight of nonstop bars over a John Carpenter "Halloween"-type beat. The mood is set, though briefly interrupted by the ramblings of DJ Drama, aka Mr. Thanksgiving. Segueing into “I Don’t Get Tired,” the track with the most crossover potential, Gates is singing on the hook, which is soon taken over by fellow freshman August Alsina. Gates stays atop the track bellowing, “I don’t get, I don’t get tired” five times over, before he goes right in. When he's rapping, his message becomes clearer and clearer as he gets deeper into his verses. He picks up speed alongside a combination of increased anger and near-death exhaustion. Nearing the end of the first verse, he sounds like he’s on the brink of a breakdown, which makes for a welcome respite when he cools back down for the hook. “John Gotti” starts with the hook as well. Gates’ rusty Creole drawl allows him to churn out surprisingly catchy turns of phrase, and his hooks do exactly what they should: provide a head-bobbing breath of fresh air before Gates picks up right where he left off with some of the fastest bars in the South. Even when he’s relaxing, though, the content is all murder: “It ain’t shit to send a hit, I feel like John Gotti.” This is far from the only time he reveals his attitude toward death, no matter which side he’s on. Apologies for the cliché, but he lives every moment, and every bar, like it's his last. “Perfect Imperfection” ends with “You say you don’t like me / Well shut up or kill me.” This is a revelation of Gates’ fearlessness as well as his all-encompassing depression. What makes him so fearful is that he really doesn’t care if his enemies kill him— not that they’re gonna pull it off.
Gates is sometimes willing to write himself off as pathetic, and it’s then that he’s able to really convey that he lives this life he talks about in such great detail. His music runs off emotion, and this is never more evident when he brings his female acquaintances into the fold. One of Gates’ favorite topics is sex. He’s been lampooned in the past for his penchant for anilingus, and it’s as if that attention has only prompted him to get more explicit— at one point he talks about going down while his girl is on the rag. As you can see, you might not be comfortable with Gates’ type of romance, but oftentimes there are stakes here that we really can’t understand. On “Plug’s Daughter,” he’s tied up with, namely, his plug’s daughter-- a high-risk relationship indeed, the end of which could mean the death of his entire family. A Gates woman is a rare breed, someone who knows love isn’t an option. “Wassup With It” finds Gates lamenting this very fact. He knows in his blood that he’s married to the streets, though that doesn’t stop him asking for the pussy “one time…one time will be cool.”
There’s a reason Gates pre-released the tracks he did, and they all appear within the mixtape’s first six tracks. When heard in sequence, it runs as one of the year’s most satisfying listening experiences. Elsewhere, highlights include a Rich Homie Quan collab (“Word Around Town”) that really shows the South’s hook game done gone ugly-- and we can’t get enough of it. There’s also the B.o.B.-produced “Pourin the Syrup”— the rare lean-anthem that isn’t any fun at all. Though in comparison to the first half, the latter end of the tape is mildly underwhelming. Also, the narrative here isn’t quite as cohesive as on the first Brasi. Each track is full of incredibly detailed storytelling, but there are few references to the actual Brasi character. You might ask, is he Brasi or is he John Gotti? Surely those are two very different characters, and fans wanting an unambiguous end to the saga might be disappointed.
In Gates’ stories, he names countless individuals and personal acquaintances, including members of his crew, potential as well as verified enemies, and many, many lady friends. It’s the type of material that requires repeat listens and critical narrative study, and even then there will be many blanks to fill. But by now, that should be par for the course for Gates fans, who continue to seek such tales that few before him have painted in such detail. Here you’ll find riveting scenes of nonstop suspense and heartbreak, but due to the nature of the game, there will always be secrets that lurk in between the lines. But fear not-- at the pace Gates is going, it seems like he’s got a bank of these stories that he, for his own sanity, absolutely has to get out.