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Courtesy of Columbia Records

May 29, 2020

TEST SPIN | Polo G — ‘THE GOAT’

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“Polo G, live in the flesh,” announced Leia, the rapper’s younger sister, at the beginning of his debut album Die a Legend. Once again, Polo G has delivered a compelling view into his life. On May 15, the Chicago rapper dropped his sophomore studio album, THE GOAT, and it did not disappoint. The 16-track project boasts features from Juice WRLD, Stunna 4 Vegas, NLE Choppa, Lil Baby and BJ the Chicago Kid, as well as an impressive producing line up including Mustard, Tahj Money, Tay Keith, Mike WiLL Made-It, Murda Beatz, Nick Mira and others.

This is a great album, and Polo G dives into a variety of serious and emotional subjects with his recognizable lively singing style. Despite a strong list of features for a sophomore album, Polo G’s verses still stand out on every song. He outperforms industry veteran Lil Baby on “Be Something” and delivers a memorable verse on “Flex,” not to be outshined by the posthumous Juice WRLD feature. His no-feature songs are just as excellent; the rapper performs a heartbreaking homage to a fallen friend in “I Know” and a moving love song in “Martin and Gina,” all after a dark and passionate intro in “Don’t Believe the Hype,” flexing a variety of lyrical ability throughout the project.

Perhaps one of Polo G’s strongest areas as an artist is his ability to stand out from the current pack of rappers trying to make a name for themselves. Polo G does not fall into the traps of oversaturating his beats or excessively autotuning himself, yet still manages to deliver memorable melodies and convey emotion with his voice. Often his songs feature a simple piano or string riff with a controlled use of bass, standing out from the over-the-top production in many current hip-hop projects.

Polo G’s lyrical talent shines in this album, once again distinguishing him from his contemporaries with a passionate delivery that also often recalls an explicit story. He can rap quickly but is always clear, and his simplistic lyrical style lays out the meaning and emotion of what he is saying perfectly. Polo G’s light touch when singing is juxtaposed with the often sorrowful or downright morbid lyrical content, and many of his songs come off as something like an old war ballad. His ability to express pain and trauma is unique, and the result is a distinctive soul rap sound that resounds throughout the album.

THE GOAT saw Polo G overcoming a difficulty with sonic diversity he had on Die a Legend. Certainly there are a few similar songs on the project, but overall Polo G does well to provide a variety of sounds and moods; from adrenaline pumping “Go Stoopid”  to melancholy and reflective “I Know” and “Looking for a Hero” to somewhere in between with “DND” and “Flex.” He tackles many different issues in his lyrics, including systematic inequality, loss, trauma, fame, violence, love and childhood. His storytelling ability paints clear pictures in the listener’s head that, paired with his simple and sharp delivery, makes his verses all the more memorable and engaging.

Although Polo G lacked the album hype of Lil Uzi and Eternal Atake or the notoriety of Lil Baby, the young rapper delivered a beautiful sophomore album deserving of just as many listens. Don’t let the same-day release of Future’s new project or the even more recent drop of Gunna’s Wunna allow this album to slip through the cracks. This is my favorite hip-hop album of the year so far and has me excited for any future Polo G projects. The masterclass of the album is nicely summed up once again by Leia at the end of “Looking for a Hero”: “You’ve finally made it big brother, you’re the GOAT.”

 

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