All Hall of Fame proves is that Polo G is way too quick to annoint himself an all-timer.
Polo G, like every great rapper before him, is ready for a coronation of his own making. In fact, if he hadn’t already just used it for his last release, the title of The Goat may have been more appropriate here given the gravity of the occasion. Polo’s been steadily honing his craft over the last three years (what must feel like an eternity to an up-and-comer) and slowly amassing a more attentive audience as a result. He had a hot song with Lil Tjay (“Pop Out”) and kept at it ever since, while also marking himself as the leader of his XXL Freshman Class, against such soulful heavy hitters as Jack Harlow. Hip-hop tastemaker/videographer Cole Bennett of Lyrical Lemonade fame made a bold prediction at the end of last year: that 2021 would be Polo’s most advantageous hour, a “#1 hits type of year” as he put it; just a few months ago, Polo secured his first number one hit. It’s not a coincidence; it’s hard work paying off — and the release of his latest album, Hall of Fame, serves as the type of ambitious crowning achievement one needs before cementing their legacy. 2Pac had it with All Eyez on Me and Biggie had Life After Death; but those were records with a stronger artistic vision than pure vanity, and their grandiose heights were supported by a variety of forward-thinking production choices. Hall of Fame has neither of those qualities, and instead feels like the product of a long business meeting at Sony headquarters to create a product that would please everyone and anyone. Even when comparing album covers, it’s not even close: 2Pac looks forelorned, Biggie unaffected and haughty — and then there’s Polo, in business casual attire, awkwardly slouching and a tad sleepy looking.
Granted, Polo’s never been what one would call an “underground” rapper, but the degree to which he’s being positioned as the next big versatile superstar becomes only more ridiculous as Hall of Frame trudges along its bloated hour length, with a promised Deluxe Edition dropping any day now. He gets a song with DaBaby because everyone who’s big makes a song with DaBaby, and Polo gets the exact same feature DaBaby gives to every big person he works with. He tries to make a cute love song with Nicki Minaj, and while the two share zero chemistry over CashMoneyAP’s boring sorta-dancehall beat, it isn’t the worst collaboration here (that would probably go to an ordinary-sounding Young Thug). There’s a Brooklyn drill song — because every mainstream rap album needs one — and there’s a Pop Smoke feature because obviously it needs to be there; if there’s one compliment that can be given here, it’s that Polo wisely decides against centering the track around himself, which also makes the record more faceless as a result. This backend run of tracks feels so removed from the narrative the album has been attempting to build, though with some minor success — biggest highlight: Lil Wayne, who bodies his feature on the melodic “Gang Gang” — but even the initial run of lead singles that kick off the project feel awkward and rarely play to their artist’s strengths. “GNF (OKOKOK)” has Polo clumsily shouting off beat, and “Rapstar” feels almost indistinguishable from any number of surly piano- or guitar-led tracks before or after (fans have been merciless in their renaming of Polo G to “Piano G” for the insane number of keys here), except it uses a ukulele as its central instrument instead. If being an all-time great only requires a few decent flows and a strong closer (the determined, laser-focused “Bloody Canvas”), then we might as well begin the inauguration festivities. If more is needed, then it seems as if Polo G has a bit more work to put in before starting that coveted conversation.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 1.