Rich Homie Quan DTSpacely Made This review Cover Art
DTSpacely Made This

What’s the opposite of a cautionary tale? Since he rattled into your car stereo two years ago, Rich Homie Quan has seemed to make shrewd decisions in the booths and boardrooms, all presumably building toward a mainstream takeover. “Type Of Way” was a massive street hit that crossed over to radio, breaking up sneering, proto-Future vocals with disarmingly sensitive asides. Coupled with the best mixtape titles in North America (people forget the stellar Gucci Mane collaboration Trust God Fuck 12), the song propelled Quan into the mainstream rap consciousness—and onto XXL’s 2014 Freshman cover.

Then there was his feature-length collaboration with Young Thug, Tha Tour, Pt. 1. Quan and Thug took Birdman’s nebulous Rich Gang banner and ran with it, churning out one of the densest, most dynamic, most thrilling rap records in a handful of years. But just as quickly as the duo materialized, it split; many speculated that Quan wanted to separate himself from Cash Money’s notoriously below-the-board business practices, though a concrete reasoning has never emerged.

Unfortunately for Quan, things weren’t much greener on the independent side. Despite scoring an even bigger hit in “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh),” which peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s rap charts, he’s failed to secure a release date for his debut album—and apparently, to collect royalties. This August, he sued Think It’s A Game Entertainment and its founder, Girvan Henry, for $2 million. (It might be of note that “Type Of Way” was released by Think It’s A Game in conjunction with Def Jam, yet for one reason or another, a full-fledged deal never materialized.)

So as a stopgap of sorts, Quan is back with DTSpacely Made This. As one could probably glean from the title, it’s a nine-song snapshot of work that the Atlanta MC has done with the producer DTSpacely, whose past credits include producing for Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. Some of the songs have appeared before—“15 Shots,” “I Get” and “Ran Off” are taken from April’s If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin’ In Ask RR (Royal Rich). Yet collected here, the duo’s music is remarkably potent.

Spacely favors minor keys and rolling hi-hats, which make for an often puzzling, always gripping contrast to Quan. The latter has traced a fascinating creative arc since the Rich Gang tape; he’s at times leaned on his more linear, formalist influences (“Still Going In 2015”), while otherwise pushing the boundaries of his vocal inflections. Made This, however minor, represents an intersection between those two bents. On “F’d Up Da Game,” Quan fully flirts with blues, using his voice percussively throughout but breaking into deadpanned lines like, “I can’t help the way I feel/No, I just might kill myself.”

“Chardonnay” gives a woman’s physique stakes that are normally reserved for life-and-death autobiography. And on “Ran Off,” when Quan raps that he’ll “leave the pussy red,” he does it as one might when they’re preoccupied—carrying on a conversation while their eyes dart back and forth, looking for an ex, a debtor, an enemy.

As might be expected on a project like this, a couple of songs feel unfinished. But those feel like specific case studies in and of themselves. It isn’t a stretch to imagine “Ol’ Man Soul” as a skeleton, where Quan rapped to a naked drum track and Spacely is only halfway through filling out the arrangements. That might as well be a microcosm for the project, a real-time look at an artist who’s swapping out and refining his tools on the fly in the service of some bigger, increasingly somber message. —Paul Thompson

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