Lil Baby & Gunna set the benchmark for luxury-rap with "Drip Harder."
Lil Baby & Gunna’s Drip Harder comes to us on the eve of a broader discussion. The question that persists: did the labelmates lend enough support to Young Thug’s brash prediction of a YSL takeover? When the outspoken Young Thug drove a discussion on his likeness to Michael Jackson into strange territory, we all emitted a laugh; no love was lost. Would Lil Baby & Gunna inherit the same "game, set and match" mentality which is both a gift and a curse to their mentor?
On Drip Harder, Lil Baby & Gunna were restitute, unyielding, and confident -- they sampled from their own cupboard, staying risk averse in the process. In some respects, the album can be viewed cynically, like an oil and vinegar mixture. But the longer you stare into the painting the more you become transfixed, for there are at least a half-dozen moments Lil Baby & Gunna employ otherworldly chemistry, and that doesn't account for the equally distributed solo experiments on Drip Harder: "Deep End" and "Close Friends" for "Baby," and "Style Stealer" and World Is Yours" for Gunna. "Close Friends," in particular gives Lil Baby a definable character set which he sometimes lacks -- made special through his admittance of a "Close Friendship" inspired by Young Thug's manifestation on "Relationships" of last year.
Gunna and Baby were right to assume they had outgrown their stature, not the least because they lacked ground-level support from you know who. Thugger remains an explicit source of faith -- He knows, in particular, how to place the batting order at YSL, but rarely imposes himself unless called into action. And so on Drip Harder, Thug watches encouragingly from afar, allowing Turbo to exercise his rightful passage as an uncredited third within the grouping. Whether accounted for not, Turbo's chord inflections are consistent; they denote a nuclear strength within the group but in some instances, they do contribute to an unsustainable pace.
Celebrating Turbo The Great as the unsung hero on Drip Harder understates his commitment to the cause. Without Run Dat Back Turbo ascribed to the project, Lil Baby would be stuck doing core alignments on the side of a road. Turbo's executive producer role is something of a graveyard shift, as far is post-production is generally perceived. Lil Baby owes much of his arpeggiated style to a residency under Turbo, which bore 2018's breakout album Harder Than Ever as a consequence.
Gunna is undeniably different. On Drip Harder, he finds himself on the cusp of a heel-turn, made somewhat incomprehensible due to a mellow, almost tender speaking voice. There is humor in a stylized juxtaposition of glut and mellow correspondence, and Gunna is evidently of two minds when it comes to his perceived lifestyle. He approaches his craft with the sensibility of a waterbug. "I left 'em a trace, I drip when I walk," he raps with a deadset gaze, only masked by his Cartier lenses, and his oblivious narcissism. Drip Harder is in all likelihood more tailored to Lil Baby's strengths, though Gunna maintains a fifty percent interest on all fronts. Lil Baby's insistence on public imaging is his greatest act of service he offers to his counterpart, while Gunna walks in sleepless remission.
Before listening to Drip Harder a first time, I unchecked my mental biases to become an observer once more. I knew the incessant play count of "Drip Too Hard," although enjoyable, would have a nauseating effect on my overall perception come drop day. My expectations of a sustained Yin-Yang model of confluence were perhaps exaggerated. Lil Baby's readiness to assume great responsibility more than makes up for some of the album's missed opportunities. In view of that, Drip Harder wielded a terrific lead single that may have set an unattainable standard, I do believe they will surpass, on a later date.
A coveted Drake collaboration was singled out as a closing number, resulting in an oddly misshapen ending. Gunna and Lil Baby inherent chemistry can feel alienating to an unwanted traveler. As a groupable entity, Lil Baby & Gunna have done enough to earn themselves a hierarchical position in the pecking order. But more importantly, Drip Harder, a presumed team-building exercise, has ironically given rise to an even greater sense of autonomy within the group, for Lil Baby in particular.