A common complaint in hip-hop today is the fact the music is losing its authenticity. Hip-Hop heads from the Internet to the barber shops seem to claim that the “lyrical” substance in rap music has exponentially declined over the years and in turn is ruining the genre as a whole. To an extent, they’re right — in the sense that Hip-Hop is no longer solely about lyrical displays of brilliance and conscious messages. Something that needs to be realized is that Hip-Hop is diverse. In this day and age, Hip-Hop is quite possibly the most diversified genre of music on the planet. There are more sub-genres than you can count and it seems like a new lane is being opened every single day. The genre is no longer just for America’s urban youth. Everyone and their mom is listening to rap music, from Compton to Calcutta.
With all that being said, there is one hip-hop label that has always kept it authentic: Cash Money Records. Established in 1991, Cash Money artists have been giving the game hit after hit for more than two decades. They have prided themselves on making the type of Hip-Hop you can get excited about. Ever since day one they have made people bounce to their summer anthems, club hits and braggadocios bars. Their artists may not be the most “traditional” of emcees, but their song making ability is unrivaled. They have mastered the art of mixing the values Hip-Hop was built on with new age style that can definitely move a crowd. The label has multiple branches and collectives including Young Money and Last Kings among others, but the new focal point of the label comes in the form of rapper collective Rich Gang.
Rich Gang includes basically everyone who falls under the Cash Money records umbrella. The supergroup released its debut, self-titled project last summer to mediocre acclaim. It featured contributions from almost every Cash Money Records artist atop a plethora of features. In all honesty, it sounded more like a “popular rapper” compilation than a exclusively Rich Gang LP. However, this past week, they switched the script and dropped a follow up mixtape: Tha Tour Part 1.
So what’s new? For starters, they have trimmed the roster down. This particular mixtape only features rhymes from Birdman, Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug. Sounds like a recipe for success, and it is. The name of the tape derives from the upcoming tour these three are commencing November 1. Their chemistry is obvious and can be seen on their Billboard hit “Lifestyle.” However, even though they are heavily affiliated, neither Quan nor Young Thug are signed to Cash Money. At first this may pose a problem of legitimacy but as you listen to the tape, you can see how perfect the fit really is. The other thing that sets this mixtape apart from their previous release is that it contains a consistent sound. Often with compilation albums the production is all over the place with contributions from a multitude of different beat makers. For example, on Rich Gang’s first album, the sounds ranged from Boi-1da’s vivid horns and samples all the way to The Runners bass heavy rumblers. It’s good to have variety but too many sounds can cripple an album’s flow. Luckily for Tha Tour Part 1, most of the production is handled by in-house producer London On Da Track. Not only does this give the mixtape more consistency, it makes for way better listen.
The 20 track mixtape starts off with your run of the mill Birdman intro which is to be expected. His job on this mixtape seems to be more host than actual contributor. He has a verse here and there but the spotlight is really on Rich Homie and Thug. The first track itself, entitled “Givenchy,” turns into one of the mixtape’s most honest where Quan and Thug give their rendition of a gangster ballad to all the females that hold them down while they are out in the streets. Even though the whole tape has good song sequence and flow, it seems to be top heavy with hits. Songs like “War Ready,” “See You” and “Flava” are easily the strongest and come within the first 25 minutes of the project. Amongst those few opening tracks is the tape’s best, “I Know It.” The song has a very retro concept to it that brings back that old Louisiana bounce vibe. The use of the spikey synths topped with hoppy horns and Young Thug’s melodic rhyme schemes channels memories of that old Juvenile and Lil Boosie feel; something the game has been missing.
In terms of lyrical content, Tha Tour Part 1 gives you exactly what you would expect. There is nothing remarkably special about their messages or verses but that’s almost the best part. Thug and Rich Homie go back and forth on multiple tracks talking about everything from girls to clubs to popping bottles and everything in between. It isn’t so much what they are saying but how they are saying it. Both Thug and Rich Homie have ultimately mastered the new age Auto-Tune use. Making their delivery more dark and murky rather than high octave oriented makes for a good sonic combination. As you dive deeper into the tape you can hear some slower cuts that really showcase the duo, especially Thug’s, attention to beat matching. It seems as if every single pop on the drum or snap of the snare matches perfectly with each cadences and vocal tone rapped. Standout bars including Young Thug’s third verse on “Imma Ride” just goes to show where these guys are at style wise: “I’m bangin’ red like strawberries/I told your bitch ain’t goin’ steady/My weed is loud and you smokin’ libraries/I got a thing for that fetti/All my diamonds green like lettuce/And what you worth to me? Petty/Let’s get it.” The rhymes are perhaps typical but the way in which he has pieced it together is almost poetic.
If there is something to take away from Rich Gang’s Tha Tour Part 1, it’s that hip-hop has layers. Among the critical view of “turn up” rap music, Rich Gang and the good folks over at Cash Money Records have always realized that that style has a life of its own in the clubs. They have mastered the art of creating club records that give people a reason to get excited about rap music; something that is obvious on the mixtape. Sure, they don’t give ground level perspectives on the socio-economic landscape of America or anything of the sort but they aren’t trying to. They aren’t concerned with solving world issues with their words and that is their prerogative. In order to fully enjoy this mixtape, you have to know what you’re getting into. If you are in the mood for braggadocious lines and Auto-Tune heavy hooks that make you want to pop bottles in Miami, then Rich Gang’s Tha Tour Part 1 mixtape is for you.
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