Listening to Polo G is a deeply humbling experience — that’s something you can’t honestly say about a lot of young rappers’ music without having the label of ‘corny’ being slapped right alongside it, as being sentimental is a slippery slope into self-pity. Just look at someone like Logic, who’s nonstop willing to whine about how he’s treated unjustly by the media because he’s too white, or too real, or too whatever else he wishes to say to defend himself (his last album was too awful to even be considered for coverage in this column). Polo doesn’t make excuses for himself; there’s hardly a trace of bitterness in his music, just pain and perseverance, with a hopeful optimism for better days. On “Dying Breed,” the rapper doesn’t express retaliation for his murdered companions with typical mean-mugging, but with pathos: “We just want ’em to feel our pain ’cause we been hurt / They took one of ours, we just tryna get reimbursed.” He speaks of this brotherly love once again on “Picture This,” and his fears of losing everything amidst his newfound success on “King’s Nightmare,” both tracks confessional in nature and hard-hitting in terms of lyrical content.
The easiest comparison one can make to Polo, stylistically, would be to Lil Durk: both rappers are from Chicago, and neither are as one-note as many of the drill scene’s biggest players; both ease in and out of vocal melodies that suggest their artistry doesn’t just end with their commanding prowess, or their prosperous ethos. All one has to do is listen to “Pop Out,” Polo’s biggest single to date — it even has a Lil Baby and Gunna remix — to see all of these elements in play: a drill-inspired piano melody over a hard-hitting 808 beat; a fervent display of songwriting dexterity that walks the line between menacing and sanguine; and an enthusiastic, if somewhat quirky, approach to vocal delivery that elongates Polo’s cadence — “It’s a lot of ani-mooooooooosssssssssssity” — for maximum effect. “Pop Out” is the closest thing to a flat-out banger on Die a Legend, and it feels earned; for Polo, hopefully, it’s just the beginning of what coukd shape up to be a career full of such laudable music.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 10.