Like a Mexican, Kap G
by Pierre Lestruhaut
The debut mixtape from Kap G, 19-year-old Atlanta-based Latino rapper, starts with words from DJ Drama: “One thing about the rap game that’s always respected is authenticism.” It might sound like the old maxim that prophesizes how music should be judged mainly on its realness, yet no matter how many thinkpieces get regurgitated about the conflicts of authenticism in art; you can always grasp flashes of authenticism in the details. The best street life rap albums, from Illmatic to The Luca Brasi Story, are the ones that carry the vivid imagery you only get from living that kind of life. Rest assured, Like A Mexican is no Illmatic, but it’s the promise and first step of a rapper whose depiction of street, family, and party life, carries the rough and rich storytelling that’s usually the imprint of good rap.
Kap G starts the mixtape wailing like Waka Flocka Flame, but instead of yelling about getting fucked up with "killers and hood niggas," he yells "pesos, pesos, pesos," and "Qué pasa homes." He’s got the mastery of dropping pop culture references that will prompt a smile on rap nerds who love Paul’s Boutique for the same reason. In “Eddie Guerrero” he raps about what he’s willing to do to get paper, which we can guess has to be related to the deceased wrestler’s catchprase: "I Lie! I Cheat! I Steal!." Then in “That Paper” he states of how he has no problems "kicking bitches out" in the morning, despite how much they love him. He’s still a man of values though, as he recognizes in "La Familia," in which he shows the sort of respect and loyalty to those that are blood-related to him that would certainly make Tío Salamanca proud.
Even if lyrically it seems to have been made in the US-Mexico border, sonically this has Atlanta’s imprints all over it. What initially hits you while listening to the mixtape, is just how extremely well surrounded Kap G is. There's beats provided by the likes of Bangladesh, Pharrell (yes Pharrell), and Drumma Boy, and guest spots by Wiz Khalifa, Young Jeezy. But it’s the production that’s particularly admirable. Bangladesh is responsible for the first two beats and not only drops the most club-trashing ones but also adds a few samples (the danzón-like horns) that fit in with the “Like A Mexican” concept. With that exception though, it’s all about the same bombastic Southern rap and trap-hop production that’s been the backdrop for Atlanta's best songs these past few years. Squat Beats’ psychedelic synth lines in “R.I.P.” and “Fuck la Policía (FLP)” provide the mixtape’s best moments for pure aural bliss, and it's also when Kap G is at his best on the mic.
The young Atlanta rapper has the slow-paced flow of Rich Homie Quan in “Type of Way,” one that’s more focused on catchiness than lyrical prowess. It’s rapping that’s delivery-driven, and he sounds so drowsy and stoned in some songs that you can even see the smoke clouds that were probably circling the studio during the recording sessions. Even if he abuses Latino slang and cultural references a little too much, making it feel occasionally like the rap industry is attempting to connect with US Latinos, he can also go from hilarious when speaking of his preference of sex over romance ("Mami please don’t give me beso/I just want some good cabeza") to highly critical and poignant when verging towards social commentary on being a descendant of immigrants in the US ("So the cops pulled me over say the windows too tinted/Basically saying that my ‘migos ain't from here," "And my bro tatted up they think he MS13"). Even if the mixtape is a success mainly because Kap G has managed to acquire a top-notch set of supporting guests and producers, at such a young age he's got the delivery and shout-along hooks that make his peers right in placing such trust and hopes in him.