Quality Control / Young Stoner Life

Strike while the iron’s hot.

Lil Baby and Gunna—a pair of young, bubbling solo artists born from Future and Young Thug’s musical aesthetics—are each riding a solo wave of increasing mixtape popularity, delivering AutoTune-inflected verses about life’s finer things and escaping its more difficult circumstances.

The 23-year-old Baby’s debut album, Harder Than Ever, hit No. 3 on Billboard in mid-May; 25-year-old Gunna’s latest and most successful platter, Drip Season 3, is only eight months old. Don’t let momentum pass you by.

Considering both rappers hail from the hip-hop hotbed of great Atlanta and sparked some chemistry with their “Sold Out Dates” link-up earlier this year, why not collaborate for an entire long-player and see what happens when two rising stars catch each other?

But Drip Harder—which builds its title by simply mashing Gunna’s Drip Season mixtape series with that of Baby’s Hard collection—is hardly an odd-couple scenario. So features by Nav, Lil Durk, Young Thug and, best of all, Drake (on stellar fiinale “Never Recover”) add necessary texture to what can blur into a samey listening experience.

Drip Harder is the irreverent, indulgent offspring of Quality Control and Young Stoner Life’s phenoms. The two main contributors are more comfortable playing with melody than lyrical concepts. And, at first blush, their values align. Money is to be celebrated. Clothes and cars should be of a recognizable, expensive brand. Women can be untrustworthy and, sometimes, disposable—but beautiful NSFW video fodder.

The project is guided by executive producer Turbo, whose team tweaks synths and drum patterns to deliver a consistently woozy, vibey sound throughout the LP’s brief 38 minutes. Catchy club bangers (like lead single “Drip Too Hard”) rule the day, although a couple more tracks with high bpms would be welcome. Hardened materialism runs rampant: “Went blind, only thing I see is dollar signs,” Gunna spits on “Underdog.” On “Business Is Business,” he adds, “I pop me a pill, one got stuck in my throat/This Rollie a presi’, I don’t need to vote"—questionable messaging to promote to teens and twentysomethings considering the current commander-in-chief.

It’s against this cold detachment that “Close Friends,” one of two excellent Lil Baby solo tracks here, stands out like an apology. The woman on this tune feels specific and real. There is blatant regret and emotion, and the writing springs from the heart rather than the wallet.

“I told the truth, that I’d be lyin’/I gave you racks, I tried to buy in,” Baby confesses. “I even did the unthinkable, and I’m sorry for what I did to you.” It's a rare moment where listeners get a peek into the pain that may be causing the fervent escapism. —Luke Fox

See New Music Releases for October 2018