Grind Hard LLC. / EMPIRE
Grind Hard LLC. / EMPIRE

Dynamic duos are back in style. A number of solo artists and producers are teaming up for new musical partnerships that have resulted in some of the most anticipated and praiseworthy rap projects in recent memory. While a bit understated in terms of buzz factor, Tennessee rappers Starlito and Don Trip are as explosive a pairing as any you'll find in hip-hop at this time, with a track record that remains without blemish. The duo's latest collaborative effort, Step Brothers Three, is another dose of reality rap that continues their winning streak of delivering quality street music.

"Yeah 5x," the album's first track, finds the southern spitters going for the jugular without hesitation, with Starlito dropping callous bars like, "They got most of my friends behind them fences/I was in them trenches that's why I don't give a fuck about no mentions/Or no likes or no comments I got extension," and talking greasy amid a relentless vocal sample. Don Trip, Starlito's family-oriented partner-in-crime, touches on the inner workings of relationships and fatherhood, rapping, "That ain't just a sack my whole future's in that paper bag/That's how I feed my babies, while my baby momma's bitching/I'm too close to the edge." The two exchange couplets and begin Step Brothers Three on a high note.

Starlito and Don Trip keep the momentum going on "Boomshakalaka," a sports-centric cut with enough references to make the late sportscaster Stuart Scott smile. Starlito, who likens himself and Don Trip's chemistry to that of the Golden State Warriors backcourt, spouts, "Pull up shooting, yeah I clutch .30's/Just like Curry, but my cup dirty/I'll shoot a nigga, like Future nigga/When Young Metro say you ain't trustworthy." Starlito puts his lyrical flair on full display, with Don Trip falling suit with his own barrage of name-drops.

The more ostentatious and brash of the pair, Starlito balls with no remorse on the Greedy Money-produced "Fortune," a standout selection which includes some of his more heartless musings on Step Brothers Three. "I hit the dice game, put that on my mortgage/Still make that bitch pay for her own abortion/I fucked your wife and told her don't divorce you/I'm either going to court or going to Nordstrom," the pride of Nashville raps, attacking the track with a boisterous fervor, with Don Trip chiming in with witty stanzas of his own.

One of the most masterful offerings on the project is “Good Cop Bad Cop,” a soulful, Greedy Money-produced tune that tackles police brutality in the form of an intricate story involving two police officers from different sides of the same fence whose lives collide in a tragic twist of fate. "Office Craig came up hard/From the hood but in school always said he was smart/On the other hand you got officer Bart/Confederate flags all in they front yard," Starlito raps, giving an idea of both officers' upbringing. Don Trip depicts Officer Bart as a trigger-happy renegade eager to prove himself, in what is among the duo's most dynamic offerings.

“You know they say they putting Harriett Tubman on the $20 bill," Starlito mentions on “The 13th Amendment Song," another highlight from the album that finds Don Trip giving insight into why his record deal with Interscope fell through. "I wouldn’t conform, so the label hit the panic button/You know they can’t stand a nigga when you stand for something,” Trip spits over tumbling drums and vocal samples provided by Street Symphony and Tyshane.

"They only speak on legends, who remembers second?" Starlito ponders on "Just Want It All," a drum-centric production, complemented by classical keys and wails. Don Trip shows reverence for his right-hand man, rapping, "Looking for more of my kind, Lito was all I could find," before the pair end off Step Brothers Three with the Street Symphony and D.O. Speaks-produced "Untitled No Hook," a heartfelt cut on which both Starlito and Don Trip bar their soul on. "I traded my OG status/I just wanna be happy fuck around with these rappers/They just selling dreams you get a syrup and a weed habit," Starlito drawls, sending a shot at the current wave of druggy enthusiasm currently permeating through and celebrated within hip-hop culture.

Throughout the 14 tracks on Step Brothers Three, Starltio and Don Trip both put on a stellar exhibition of rhyme skill, flows, lyrical tenacity, storytelling and other tools of the trade. They provide ample proof that bar for bar, they have the ability to hang with any pairing placed before them, regardless of stature. An exercise in what is required from an elite MC in today's rap game, Step Brothers Three is another undeniable chapter in the book of Trip and Lito that should only have fans anticipating the next one.

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