If EST Gee’s latest mixtape can sometimes feel a bit too hubristic, it’s still a swaggy invitation to get in the know before it’s too late.
It’s so far been a big year for the big-foreheaded Yo Gotti and his CMG record label — also known as the Collective Music Group, who previously went by the less marketable and far-better namesake of the Cocaine Muzik Group — between the recent success of Detroit’s 42 Dugg and continued rise of Memphis’ Moneybagg Yo, who’s affiliated with CMG via a management deal. Both are huge accomplishments in their own rights and worthy of celebration for the CEO newcomer (not counting whatever Blac Youngsta is doing these days), but there’s no slowing down over at Gotti’s office. Now, it’s Louisville’s EST Gee’s time in the spotlight, who signed with the label early in 2021 after the popularity of his Ion Feel Nun mixtape, and its appropriately titled sequel, I Still Don’t Feel Nun — he was also shot five times and lived to tell the tale, in case you weren’t in the know — and has recently dropped Bigger Than Life or Death to continue this professional winning streak.
Opener “Riata Dada” sets the stage well enough: you get these blaring horns over this loud, grimey trap beat, the type Jeezy would rap over in 2004, as Gee delivers this slurred, snappy stream of consciousness rant where he’s connecting these elongated independent clauses like he’s some bookie simply rattling off statistics (he even cheekily makes note of how his “semi spit like a run-on sentence”). His boisterous confidence borders on pure arrogance, his swagger is completely unchecked, and his delivery barrels through like a runaway train; simply put, he’s a relentless dude who couldn’t give a fuck less. Which, in small doses, is thrilling and provides its own unique pleasures: “Make It Even” and “Sky Dweller” find him in a similar mode of operation, and when he teams up with Pooh Shiesty on the piano-heavy highlight “All I Know,” the two quickly get down to brass tacks and sound gleefully savage while doing so. In fact, one could say Gee is something of a veteran when it comes to getting to the point of things, as most of his songs comfortably stick to the two-to-three minute range while also ditching the usual fundamentals of musical structure (choruses, complex arrangements, bridges) in the process; he would probably claim that all of that stuff is unneeded, and for him it probably would be. But that leaves a lot of tracks that don’t have much of an end game beyond being loud and aggressive, and by the time Gee’s label mates start showing up again and again to help pad out the project’s length, one starts to become a bit numb to the experience (that might actually begin when Future, on the “Lick Back” remix, makes a rather bizarre claim that he’s “suckin’ this bitch titty like I’m tryna get some syrup out it”). It’s a bit too much of a good thing, yet never outright invalidates what’s come previously; in that sense, Bigger Than Life or Death functions best as a brief showcase for the raw potential its star artist regularly exudes. Or better yet, and perhaps a bit more accurate: as warning shots for those still not in the know.
Published as part of Album Roundup — July 2021 | Part 1.