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City Girls - G I R L C O D E Music Album Reviews

The Miami duo’s new album builds on the strengths of their recent mixtape with speaker-rattling songs about pleasure, power, and strong women unapologetically getting their own way.

City Girls’ G I R L C O D E replicates the winning formula of their mixtape Period: speaker-rattling Southern beats, how-to pointers for scheming on rich men, anthems for defying haters and broke boys. Post-Period, JT and Yung Miami secured a feature on a No. 1 hit, among other feats, making them the latest rap sensation from the Atlanta label Quality Control. But ahead of their first opus, like their labelmates Migos, they’ve been overcoming legal obstacles.

On “Intro (#FREEJT),” they address the situation in characteristically defiant terms. The track begins with an incoming call from JT, who is in federal prison for fraud. “Lord knows that I miss her,” admits Miami, “But I'ma hold this shit down for my sister.” Later, JT backs her up: “Get they asses, Miami, don’t let up on ’em hoes.” Their show of sisterhood against the odds is a rare glimpse of vulnerability on an ego-driven tale. G I R L C O D E has no time for feelings. Here, pleasure is non-negotiable, money is power, and being a woman in control is key for survival.

Miami and JT are upfront about sex but have different rules of engagement. Take “On the Low,” which could be a course on risky text messages. Miami wants sex in transit (“I need brain on the train/Let's leave stains on the plane”) while JT prefers nights in and no trace of her escapades on Instagram (“You ain’t on my page, but you in my guts”). When it comes to love, however, their guards are up. The moody “Give It a Try” features a sprung Jacquees, but they dismiss the singer’s begging. “I kinda wish I had time for it, but that love shit not important,” Miami raps, while JT is even more unforgiving: “All men the same, all they ass do is lie.”

It’s no wonder City Girls want men to pay up for their time. The mindset isn’t new. Gwen Guthrie sang, “No romance without finance,” on her 1986 dance-R&B hit “Aint Nothin’ Goin’ on But the Rent.” But City Girls are more savage, especially on “Season,” a schemers’ holiday featuring Lil Baby. “How you a boss and you don’t own shit?” he snaps, interrupting their celebration. The polarizing lyric puts “Season” in the family of notable male-versus-female rap tropes, like Gucci Mane’s “I Think I Love Her” featuring Ester Dean and Project Pat’s “Chickenhead” featuring La Chat.

The bulk of G I R L C O D E is a ready-to-queue party playlist, including “Season,” that’s top-40 friendly. “Twerk” samples the bounce-influenced classic “Choppa Style” and enlists rap princess Cardi B, conjuring a pregame gathering for a girls night out. “Broke Boy,” a warning for the guys “lying on they dick,” invokes an HBCU football halftime show where City Girls are the bandleaders. The trappy “Clout Chasin’” would be an on-the-mark critique of Internet trolls, were it not for a homophobic slur from JT (“I’m tired of you hoes and you niggas sittin’ ‘round, actin’ like dykes.”) Miami was also recently called out for homophobic remarks. These avoidable blemishes dampen the enjoyment of a satisfying project, especially for their black gay fanbase.

If Period was an introduction to the City Girls’ sumptuous lifestyle, then G I R L C O D E is the sequel that proves their mastery of its acquisition. A female rap duo with relatable come-up stories, spitting lyrics detailing women getting their way, is a novelty. The luxury they chase is an escape from poverty, a common theme in hip-hop. But women face more challenges in achieving prosperity—and for City Girls, finessing guys willing to trick is their cunning way of tipping the scales.

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