Islah was a solid debut, but Kevin Gates’ last two mixtapes had me worried. But “I”m Him” surpasses Islah in every way, and proves Kevin Gates has a powerful voice and a lot to add to the grimey, confessional Southern rap genre that otherwise seems to have given way to pop and alt rap. Yeah, he uses a voice changer sometimes, but he keeps it to the hooks and, more incredible than that, he keeps the verses for himself. That’s right. No guest spots.

Right after Islah came out in 2016, Gates did a half-year stint for assaulting a fan. The another 30 months on a gun charge. So we didn’t hear from him for three years–a lifetime in today’s music business. Turns out, he’s got a lot to say.

Even the intro has a lot to say. I mean, check out these opening bars…

Controlling shit, I’m scoring flippers, ain’t nobody want look
Losing focus, burnin’gsoda, trying to win off a cook
Thinkinf situated, if I could just get to a book
Go to Texas, grab a hook and put that bass in the hood
Bitch, I got weight in the hood, I’m up in rank in the hood
My lil’ soldiers on it, I no longer stay in the hood
Quiet as kept, I was the first to put that H in the hood
With Big Marques, I’m sipping lean, would take a break if I could…

That’s some mean trap gymnastics.  That’s what that is.  He’s got sex raps in here.  He’s got some seriously sad shit.  And he even sings.

Even if all you know about Gates is “Two Phones,” this is a worthy listen if you’re a fan of trap or hardcore rhymes.

Best tracks: Bags, Facts, Walls Talkin’.

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