Paper Route Empire

Whether you’ve realized it or not, Young Dolph has been one of rap’s most successful independent artists over the past year. His slew of street hits and surplus of mixtapes has garnered him a loyal following and as a result, he was even able to climb up the Billboard charts with tracks like “Preach.” Even though his road to rap stardom has been done independently, Dolph still doesn’t seem to get the credit he ultimately deserves. With the release of his first official album, King of Memphis, the rapper is looking to open the flood gates even further.

On his 2015 hit “Pulled Up,” Dolph rapped, “I ain’t got a deal but I got a Wraith.” The line may sound simply superficial but it’s actually a great way to sum up the 30-year-old rhymer's attitude on this album. From top to bottom, Dolph constantly gives a reminder he's still a top earner despite being an independent artist without a major label machine behind him. For instance, on “Get Paid,” lines like “Go get the money, it ain't nothing else important to me” detail his main focus.

In fact, King of Memphis is pretty much all focused around money. This isn’t anything new in hip-hop but at every turn, Dolph mentions how much money he makes. Rapping about an abundance of cash is definitely kosher on this project but the potency dries up when the same metaphors and similes are used over again. Since the album only runs 11 tracks long, the money-inspired rhymes are spread heavily over a short period of time.

Dolph does excel in one way on this album when it comes to finding the perfect beats that match his looming voice. Thank producers Mike Will Made-It, Zaytoven, TM88 and Nard & B, to name a few, for that. On every single song, the tone layering and cadence is spot on. The instrumentation gels together with his voice in a way that creates a unique sound that would rattle any sound system. There are even points when his adlibs give off a trappy melody. “It’s Goin Down” features a twangy baseline that most southern rappers wouldn’t dream of finding melody on but Dolph manages to turn it into the album’s best chorus.

“Royalty” is without a doubt the LP’s best song. The beat has hoppy snares laced with intricate keys -- a beat that forces Dolph to rap a little bit faster. He hops from bar to bar with ease and lines like “Versace Roley/ gold Cartier/ I do what I want with this shit like Kanye/I only drink syrup/ no Bombay I knew I was gonna do this shit big one day /you get too much money and then they get afraid/my great great granddaddy used to be a slave/ they start to hate on you when know that you paid/Fuck it/I guess that’s the price that you pay” is a simple rhyme scheme but is clean and executed to perfection. This standout lines pop up again on other tracks like “How Could” and “Real Life.” Dolph definitely proves he can flex his lyrical competency.

The biggest thing missing from this album is dialogue about Memphis. After all, the project is called King of Memphis. Dolph touches on his past and coming up in the south Memphis streets but only briefly. There is nothing substantial enough to prove how much he is devoted to his hometown or why he claims to be the king. A total home run would have occurred had Dolph crafted Memphis’ next big anthem and thrown it on the album. Instead, the effort's 30-minute run time is replete with talk of money and women. Even featuring a notable Memphis artist on a song would have given the album’s title a little more merit.

Dolph proves he can make quality music on his debut LP. While it's apparent on a first listen of the effort that he's out to have a good time, he certainly surprises when he reveals more personal, serious aspects of himself ("My great great grandad was a slave") as well. The self-proclaimed king has his fair share of high moments on the project but the room for growth lies in his subject matter. Money is the motive for Dolph yet he doesn't venture too far away from the green to give listeners a distinct variety in subject matter. If there's one takeaway from King of Memphis, it's that cash rules everything around Young Dolph.

See 40 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2016