Kevin Gates - Stranger Than Fiction
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Record Label: Bread Winners Association
Earlier this year, Kevin Gates released his breakthrough mixtape The Luca Brasi Story after cultivating a strong hometown following for years without gaining much recognition elsewhere. The Luca Brasi Story, however, was a smash hit among publications across the board, and the success of the tape got him signed to Atlantic. The Baton Rouge native displayed an unmatched dynamic between his street life and his personal life on the tape, effortlessly switching between the two as he told his stories over the course of the mixtape. Now, the rapper is back again with a “street album” in Stranger Than Fiction. He may be selling it as an album, but the entire thing plays out like most of his other mixtapes, and considering the strength of his tapes, this is a great thing.
One of the first things you'll notice about Kevin Gates is his unique voice. There is a lot of body to it, but he has a knack for melodies in the vein of Future. Still, the Future comparisons only tell half the story, since his rapping and lyrics are miles above not only Future but almost any other street rapper out there.
With Gates, you always get a mixed bag of songs that show off a number of different styles while still all holding a common thread, usually in the bass heavy production that's in the vein of Lex Luger or other trap producers. And while the production here may not bring anything new to the table, the way Gates navigates throughout the beats makes them seem like a breath of fresh air. He opens up the album with “4 Legs and a Biscuit,” a menacing song that sets the stage for the rest of the tape by showing us that he's still in full Luca Brasi mode. Along those same lines, “Get Em” is in the vein of “Weight” or “Paper Chasers” from Brasi, as its the perfect street rap anthem with an infectious hook and endearing braggadocio rap.
You get a good amount of the boastful and ignorant Kevin Gates here, but you also get a fair amount of the dark and personal Kevin Gates. On “MYB” he blends the two personalities for a song that's sure to resonate with anyone who is invested in Gates and the story he's telling through his music. The real standout of the album comes in the form of “4:30 a.m,” where he airs out his grievances early in the morning, recounting the aftermath of a stabbing, a dispute with one of his best friends, and a girl that he can't seem to get off of his mind. It's another testament to the fact that Gates is at his best when he's at his most vulnerable, but his vulnerability is never a weakness as his gruff voice retains loads of confidence.
Gates, like most rappers, doesn't shy away from sexual lyrical content. He pulls it off a little more tastefully on “Strokin,'” but on “Thinking With My Dick,” he goes full on ignorant for a strip club banger that features an always ridiculous (but always welcome) Juicy J. It'd be easy to write it off as shallow and lewd, but that's exactly the point. For all of its moments of introspection and worry, like on “Smiling Faces,” the more lighthearted moments of Stranger Than Fiction fit right in.
Kevin Gates has been one of rap's artists to watch for a while now, and Stranger Than Fiction suggests that we need to keep watching. Whether or not it's as good as The Luca Brasi Story is irrelevant, though at this point the two are about even. The highs on Luca Brasi are higher and the lows are lower, but Stranger Than Fiction is a much more consistent listen. Either way, both projects are good enough to cement Gates as someone that is sure to see success in years to come, as his style is both unique and endearing. By this time next year, don't be surprised if Kevin Gates is a household name.