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The 30 Most Lyrical Rap Songs of the Last 5 Years

28. Kevin Gates "Dangerous" (2010)


"I don't 'try,'" Kevin Gates told us in an interview earlier this year. "In being honest, you don't have to try ... Whatever flows well together, that's what I do." The Baton Rouge rapper's style of lyricism might be more improvisational than the graphite-past-the-margins notebook scrawl we're used to with New York lyrical miracles, but in many instances, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Dense with syllables and intricately artful rhyme patterns, Gates' lyrics have a particularly evocative qualty due to their poetic imagery: "Passin' through the hood with memories of the block, left hand holding the wheel, our fingers are interlocked/Tinted windows but the rocks still glistening on the watch...."

Gates' lyrics are a collage of snapshots and implied meanings, the kinds of things that cohere into a formal shape when woven together; these ideas keep the listener hanging on each word. It's this sense of creating rather than describing that animates his work, sketching a portrait of a ladies' man, a street soldier, a "well dressed gentleman, but still a gangster." Gates' verses on "Dangerous" are ambiguous but never wishy-washy; his confidence in his art means truth sits between each line. —David Drake

RELATED: Who Is Kevin Gates?

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