Kevin Gates has one of the most interesting careers of modern hiphop superstars; From his gritty trap work to mega hits like “2 Phones” and later settling into regional popularity after a prison stint, he has always remained consistent and hungry in his work. His latest effort Khaza seems to be an attempt to recapture some of that mainstream appeal.
Given “Thinkin With My Dick”‘s recent explosion and inclusion as a bonus track, as well as his “Super Gremlin” remix which stirred some drama, Gates is looking to do numbers again. Plus Khaza is a follow up to his most popular project ever, 2016’s Islah (being named after his children). Thankfully, he doesn’t sacrifice quality for that crossover appeal.
The album opens with the single “Intro”, which immediately jumps out as one of Gates’ best, rawest songs to date. With that aggressive ‘general’ flow, he goes in with no hook while speaking on all haters and all the bullshit he’s been through. As dope as this track is, it’s generally quite different from the rest of the album; From here on, he leans more into the deeply emotional, melodic pain style he popularized and which is so common now with artists such as Rod Wave or JayDaYoungan. Big fans might also notice interpolations and references to some of his older work like “Get Up On My Level” or “Walls Talking”.
Kevin Gates – Intro
From there however, things mostly remain solid. This album gives off the energy that Gates just hopped in the booth and freestyled, pouring out his heart on every track. Some tracks, such as the standout “PTOE”, don’t even have hooks, yet he is still able to sneak in infectious melodies, flows, and frank, vulnerable bars that we can all relate to on some level. Whether it be about relationships, mental health, addiction, or struggles on the street, Gates always bears his heart and helps those of us going through it too.
Other standouts include “Bad For Me”, which seems to have potential as a hit and is a nice balance between the subtly aggressive country beat and his soft, yet cold hearted lyrics; “Steppin”, one of the few forays into his cartel side; and “Scars”, where Gates eloquently accepts his past struggles and finds fulfillment in more than money.
I look at everybody ’round me different
I know agenda’s always probably hidden
Brеad winners sticking to the mission
Deprеssion’ll disappear while doing fitness
I come from cooked dope over crack stove
Clutching fishing poles in the kitchen
Open doors come from dealing lows
The track “Hard to Sleep” is one of those dope, far too rare motivational tracks where a rapper speaks on their pure business success and how others can follow. Gates famously owns Starbucks franchises, which is such a lucrative, if unexpected move for someone of his stature. This is also an example of the raw storytelling he always employs where he simply chronicles interactions and how they affect him behind the scenes. There’s also “Truth Be Told”, a great track in its own right which is elevated by the clever Gotye sample.
Sadly, it wouldn’t be a Kevin Gates album without a few tracks which really draw you out of the experience. “Big Lyfe” has a really rough hook and borderline rage beat, “Shoot My Shot” is his classic, over the top sex song, and the autotuned sobbing on “One Day” is certainly going to be polarizing.
All this said, its great to see Kevin Gates getting some major attention again. While its not a perfect album and might not have the same energy of his classics, Khaza is a worthy addition to his discography which should do the numbers he deserves.