YFN Lucci has been one of the biggest stars that hasn’t managed to become a star yet. Many know him off radio hits such as “Every Day We Lit” or “Key to the Streets” where his melodic croon plays off the more well-renowned guests such as PnBRock or Migos in order to appeal to the unfamiliar. Even more have been following him since early breakout single “Wonder Why” and have watched with eager attention as over the last 2-3 years, Lucci has become one of the hottest acts out of Atlanta with a rabid cult following. His ability to balance himself as a songwriter and a lyricist has held a great deal of promise, which has only been bolstered by a solid mixtape run which has finally culminated in his debut album Ray Ray from Summerhill. With all this anticipation and build, has Lucci managed to deliver on all his promise and appraisal?

One of Lucci’s strengths that isn't too familiar with listeners who recognize him off his radio singles is his deep committal to conveying emotional content and gravity on his songs. Not unlike the more mature moments of Future and former labelmate Rich Homie Quan, or even other non-Atlanta talents such as Kevin Gates and Boosie, a great majority of Lucci’s material isn’t to be judged simply by his bars or even how catchy his songs are, but how he managed to combine both pictures of romance, struggle, celebration with a clarity of vision that many would claim is lacking in the rap game currently. On the song “Time For It,” Lucci demonstrates this magnificently, as before the first-minute clocks in he’s already offering up sobering reflections such as:

"I still can't believe my cousin died before the deal came
That's why sometimes I just get high, ain't trying to feel pain
See I could just sit here and lie but that would feel strange
Just talk about things I don't have, and not the real thing."

On “All I Know” Lucci turns self-scrutiny into warning shots, using that same attention to detail.

"Every pistol loaded; my car fully loaded
All these scars but every one was worth it; God done made me perfect
I work hard, can't tell me I don't deserve it; I'mma break the surface
Play with the gun and we gonna hand out hearses to every single person
That's on my unborn..."

Such vivid imagery and detail, married to the melodic sensibilities of Lucci make for a near-cinematic sense of what he tries to convey on record, making him all the more compelling as a figure. It's the depth of character he’d already demonstrated frequently on early mixtapes, taken to a whole new level.

What makes Lucci even more impressive is a rather complementary and lush production style that never manages to stay in one convenient formula, avoiding any tendency to paint himself into a corner or fall into typical rapper cliches. Yes, album opener “Go Crazy” features evocative bluesy saxophone weaving beside 808s, but then you have “Down,” a modernized take on Kanye West’s beat for Cam’ron’s “Down & Out” where Lucci avoids straightforward emulation for his own spin on wordplay. And that’s skipping ahead over tracks like the lurching orchestral sounds of the Zaytoven-assisted street creeper “The King,” not to mention way before the soft vocoder splashes of the pensive “When I’m Gone” or the ethereal Miguel flip performed on “Come with Me.” It's an album that doesn’t feel any sort of self-conscious - with the likes of the aforementioned Zaytoven, Buddah Beatz and others helping to provide an expansive sound for Ray Ray From Summerhill, it seems natural for YFN Lucci to be able to deliver beyond the initial ambitions he could’ve ever promised fans. 

This isn’t to say the album isn’t without its flaws. Clocking in at 19 tracks (not to mention a surprise bonus track consisting of just YFN Kay from the YFNBC over a trad-hip-hop instrumental for unofficial closer “Stadiums”), the album isn’t without a bit of extra padding that could easily be cut down and done away with. With the exceptions of Dreezy, T.I. (markedly somber and mature for his showing on “Keep Your Head Up”) and YFN Trae Pound, most of the celebrity guest verses on the album tend to feel rather uninspired and detract from the songs rather than refresh the listener from so much time with Lucci. Furthermore, the various interludes are just the slightest bit of excess material that feels more or less like unfinished ideas rather than complimentary transitions between tracks. With such a diverse sounding album, jumping from production styles or different moods, there’s the occasional fatigue from having to rely on feeling so many different emotions so abruptly and so consistently. Such issues of bloat don’t hinder the album from being an excellent showcase of Lucci’s strengths as an artist, but if anything, it undermines with lesser offerings that wear down the listener.

As far as debut albums go, Ray Ray From Summerhill appears to be a satisfying showcase to newer listeners and yet another enjoyable project for longtime fans of YFN Lucci. The record boasts an impressive and varied display of rap skills, songwriting, and creativity, looking to be an early contender for one of the strongest albums of 2018, and shows signs that if Lucci continues at his current pace, he will soon join the top ranks among the Atlanta rap game. Should any follow-up projects manage to both enhance his already impeccable strengths and perhaps avoid any of this records minor pitfalls, I don’t see how anyone can stop Lucci from cementing himself as a permanent fixture in the world of rap.