If there is one thing Matthew Hauri — aka Yung Gravy — knows, it’s that to succeed in the rap game, and the modern media sphere at large, one must first become a meme. In that sense, the artist’s latest LP, Sensational, succeeds in spades: Opener “Gravy for Pope” contains the couplet, “Gravy got the drip, they call me Mr. Hydration / Bitch I do not play, and you look like a Playstation,” and contends that Gravy “brings people hope.” (This all playing into the signature, absurdist charm that Gravy first tapped into on 2018’s “Mr. Clean.”) The ghostly, theremin-like vocals on “Gravy for Pope,” set against a strategically shifting flow and surprisingly hard bass, add to the air of silliness, even as the song otherwise actually resembles a hard rap track. Gravy “pull[s] up with a fucking vision” — unlike stale memes of Lil Dicky or Ugly God. The album art here simultaneously recalls ’70s disco, Blaxploitation, science fiction, and videogame aesthetics. And, at its best anyway, the music follows suit: Juicy J-assisted “Buttered Up” finds Gravy interpolating a ’70s R&B-soul sample while likening eating pancakes to sex (“I’m Mr. Buttersworth”), “The Boys are Back in Town” continually breaks its progressive trap-posse structure down into a vaudevillian jam; the eminently fun, Motown-indebted “Gravy Train” flows seamlessly out of the legitimately funny “Daddy Aoili Interlude,” which itself transforms from slow jam into modern rap rant.
For every great moment, though, there’s a half-baked genre fusion or misapplication of appeal to match. Mia Gladstone duet “Charlene” illustrates this best, as the artifice of The Gravy Ethos™ can’t sustain the legitimately sentimental refrain, nor make any effective jokes from it. Worse still, we get a humorless copy-and-paste of the Pump-Smokepurrp team-up on “E.T.,” which features Lil Mayo, where the wink goes no further than the guest list. Even “Alley Oop,” an incredible fusion between the white-boy world of meme rap and Lil Baby’s wildly impressionistic Thugger-esque style, feels out of place here; it should have stayed the one-off experiment it was initially released as. The true harbinger of doom, though, is the inclusion of previously released “1 Thot 2 Thot Red Thot Blue Thot” — which doesn’t even seemed to have been remixed from its earlier version. The track is now practically a paean to a not-so-long-ago time when the memification of Yung Gravy was at its freshest; it was the rapper’s second real hit, recorded right after he finished serving probation. And sadly, its inclusion here reminds of just what the actual lightning-in-a-bottle sound of Gravy could be, casting the whole album in a comparatively unflattering light. Gravy has already peaked; set his gravestone next to Vanilla Ice’s.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 10.