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Lil Baby/Gunna - Drip Harder Music Album Reviews

Lil Baby and Gunna are one of the best new rap duos and their latest project develops a chemistry and brotherhood few others can lay claim to.

Drip Harder is the more opulent and flashier spiritual successor to Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan’s classic 2014 Atlanta mixtape Rich Gang Tha Tour Pt. 1. The influence of the two pumps through the veins of Lil Baby and Gunna, just as it does any rapper who debuted in the city after 2014. The similarities between the two mixtapes are glaring as it’s a duo of Atlanta-bred melody-driven rappers that spit so damn well with each other, aware that if they go hard enough this is their shot at superstardom. But where Lil Baby and Gunna separate themselves is a chemistry and brotherhood that few rap duos can lay claim to.

The chemistry of Lil Baby and Gunna breeds competition as the mixtape becomes a showcase of two rappers at the top of their game attempting to out-flex the other: If Gunna just copped a new coat, Lil Baby got a superior one that cost $6,500, and if Lil Baby has a VLONE hoodie, Gunna has the same one but in every color. They revealed their world of drip earlier this year when “Sold Out Dates” set the blueprint for Lil Baby and Gunna’s rapping style: a string-sampling instrumental from ATL mainstay Turbo, melodic Gunna hymns dedicated to his designer, and the gruffer bars of Lil Baby still acclimating to this life of showboating. This alchemy shapes Drip Harder into the rare major label collaborative mixtape that’s not on cruise control.

From the beginning, Lil Baby and Gunna are all-in, recruiting high-profile guests like Lil Durk and Nav to follow their lead on a track definitely titled in a 2018 hip-hop name-generator, “Off White VLONE.” Gunna ushers everyone into the piano-laden world where not much matters other than if your belt buckle matches your Balenciaga runners. The duo calls on Drake to go in over the Tay Keith drums he loves so much on “Never Recover” and although Drake’s borrowed flow can’t keep up with Lil Baby and Gunna, none of their guests can, except for Young Thug. As their idol pops in on “My Jeans,” sliding in a chorus between their two short verses and it’s like a Dad taking his two sons to the basketball court to play one-on-one.

Drip Harder thrives when Lil Baby and Gunna are alone, in their element, battling while also making sure to fill their quota of VLONE product placement (for instance, VLONE rims?). On “Drip Too Hard,” Lil Baby finds his melodic sweet spot on the hook only for Gunna to attempt to upstage him with smooth vocals that manage to keep his rapid delivery intact, all while tossing in a few boasts that are probably lies, but those are the best ones (“TSA harass me, so I took a private plane”). Their chemistry takes center stage on “Belly,” as Gunna passes his flow onto Baby who at this point is so confident he even celebrates his scent (“Spend thousands on fragrance she fuckin’ my odor”).

The shortcomings come to light every time Baby and Gunna separate. When Turbo doesn’t have both Baby and Gunna flowing their asses off, his monotonous drums patterns grow tiresome. A few of his beats blend into one another, and he’s just not versatile enough to carry a project on his back. And even the bouncy Gunna solo track “Style Stealer” features Gunna comically unaware that dressing like Willy Wonka is not a flex (“Flawless choker round my throat/Icy cane like Willy Wonka”).

Lil Baby and Gunna’s chemistry is a refreshing splash in an Atlanta hip-hop scene that has felt stagnant. It’s the duo establishing themselves, knowing they have some limitations, but capitalizing on what they do well. And even if they break up over some pettiness like Rich Gang, Drip Harder will be remembered as a moment that let hip-hop know it had two new superstars draped in “designer to the floor,” which, as Gunna said, “I can barely spell.”

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