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Courtesy of YSL

March 4, 2019

TEST SPIN | Gunna — ‘Drip or Drown 2’

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In his latest album, Atlanta rapper Gunna provides a familiar throwback to his 2017 Drip or Drown EP. Released last Friday, Drip or Drown 2 is a sixteen-song project with features from Lil Baby, Young Thug and Playboi Carti. Gunna continues to deliver more of his patented, subtle orations over laid-back instrumentals with an emphasis on traditional Atlanta trap themes.

Drip or Drown 2 is a staple Gunna album, focusing on soft vocal melodies paired with low-key trap beats. The album has numerous interesting qualities that make it a solid addition to the current wave of hip-hop and feels very authentic to both Gunna and Atlanta rap, with all three features coming from prominent Atlanta stars. The album’s style falls squarely in the new-wave, mumble rap category, with simple messages and little emphasis on lyricism while still maintaining the Atlanta trap motif.

Young Thug and Gunna’s call-and-response singing style stands out on “3 Headed Snake,” with the two artists blending well with local producer Wheezy and showcasing their compelling and dynamic relationship. Gunna also attempts a more extensive vocal presence throughout the album, with a melodic style resembling the melancholy trap anthems of his mentor, Young Thug,  and peer, NBA Youngboy. The project fits in nicely with the current melodic direction of mainstream rap.

One strength of the album is the ease of listening and consistency that a playthrough delivers, making it perfect for playing in the background of any relaxed situation. Gunna’s adherence to his melodic roots means fans of his early work will almost certainly appreciate the album, while those unimpressed with the simplicity of mumble rap may want to look elsewhere.

As you may expect from a Gunna project, Drip or Drown 2 does have its fair share of creative and interesting beats, with “Who You Foolin” sampling a unique guzheng instrumental from Chinese singer Tong Li. For returning Gunna fans, the album is also chock-full of dynamic, hard-hitting bass rhythms that the MC is well known for rapping over.

Drip or Drown 2’s biggest weaknesses stem from the repetitiveness of the songs within the album. The album fails to differentiate itself notably from the original Drip or Drown and much of Gunna’s previous work. Aside from his increased use of vocal melodies and novelty beats, the album blends in considerably to the contemporary trap and mumble rap scenes that Gunna could — and arguably should — be advancing given his talent. Even his use of singing could be seen as an imitation of his influences like Young Thug and therefore not necessarily a significant contribution to the genre.

Additionally, I was disappointed with both the Lil Baby and Playboi Carti features. The now iconic duo of Lil Baby and Gunna did not produce one of the classics we have come to expect from such a collaboration, with Lil Baby unimpressively appearing in “Derek Fisher.” Similarly, Playboi Carti’s appearance is lackluster and falls short of what a unique and genre-pushing artist like Playboi Carti can add to a project. Due to the minimal number of features on the album, these appearances could have been utilized better in bringing much-needed variety to the album.

Drip or Drown 2 will certainly be a welcome addition to hip-hop playlists over the next few months, especially for those appreciative of the subtle flows and trap beats constantly present. Gunna seems to play it safe with this release, providing similar music to that which has gained him considerable commercial and artistic success. Although this approach can lead to a lack of innovation and excitement, Gunna provides a powerful narrative on life in Atlanta and the music it continues to inspire. Drip or Drown 2 is a consistent, solid release that captures the current trap and mumble rap scene, but perhaps it does so too well.

John Wooten is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at jbw@cornellsun.com.