Rule number one is "get the money first." Rule number two is "don't forget to get the money." That's the kind of advice Dolph has shared time and again in his music and in his general ministry as the head of his business entity/record label Paper Route Empire. He shares it explicitly in the video for "Get Paid," the plot of which is that Dolph is mentoring a delinquent kid on sound business principles (you may remember a few weeks ago when the fake news broke on Instagram). In that song and video lie the many facets of Dolph's appeal: His music is full of inspirational lines about getting rich, but it's also self-aware and bluntly funny.
Lines like "your bitch look like a motherfucking toothpick" or "bought a Rolls Royce just to smoke kush in it" have a kind of schoolyard (or Twitter feed) shit-talking bite to them—Dolph's lines roll out like crazy shit you say to your friends. He has a song called "USA" that celebrates the colors red, white, and blue, except it's about lean and cars and the girls he's fucking. But it's also about America, kind of: He muses about his across-the-street neighbor's smoking habits, and then in the middle of the song he casually drops the line "you ever been so hungry you couldn't go to sleep man?" and just totally fucks you up.
Dolph raps in a deep, accented garble that you either enjoy for its directness or can't stand. In person, he's more or less the same guy: open, Memphis through-and-through, and confident in his abilities yet grateful toward his family and good fortune, as I found when I talked to him a couple years ago. He doesn't try to reinvent the wheel in terms of rap; he just… well… says stuff. And says it well. In fact, he does so to the point that he's become kind of the sixth man of Atlanta rap despite being from Memphis: he's worked extensively with many of the city's up-and-coming artists, and I've even had an older Atlanta rapper tell me he's the city's next big export.
On his album King of Memphis, which we're premiering below and which he is billing as his official debut album (after a successful run of mixtapes), Dolph may be making it clear what city he's from, but that Atlanta influence is felt, too. The city's top producers—Mike WiLL Made-It, Zaytoven, TM88, Nard & B.—chip in beats. But Dolph's disarming straightforwardness takes them in a new direction, and, while his style certainly isn't going to sound weird and foreign, it's also a different, more direct twist on the trap staple. Dolph is perfectly at the center of where Southern street rap is right now, and that's serving him well. He recently made Forbes' Hip-Hop Cash Princes list, and he's remained comfortably independent of a major record label while scoring hits like "Preach," "Pulled Up," and a spot on the currently charting "California." And, well, in his own words, "he's always on the way to get the money / Don't ever ask me where I'm going / Fell asleep on a jet / woke up in a foreign."
King of Memphis is a solid debut album from one of the most quietly popular artists in the South right now, and it's well worth your time. It goes on sale tomorrow, but you can stream it ahead of time right here. Check it out, along with the tracklist and production credits, below:
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