"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

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