Earlier this week, Young Dolph released a song called "Bagg" featuring Lil Yatchy and announced the release of his next mixtape Gelato, his fifth project in a little under a year's time. "Bagg" is everything we've come to expect from Dolph, with the lead artist himself describing it as "a street hustler's anthem on having the finest things in life. It's a feel good club song. It's a crazy song, that shit has so much energy on it." He didn't lie.
Despite this exciting news, many of you still have not heard the song, or even half of the great work he made last year, as evidenced by almost all of the Album of the Year lists that were published over the last month (including from the site you're reading this on now). Young Dolph is a Gucci-cosigned, Memphis, Tennessee rapper who stands out for his more straightforward and blunt delivery in the current industry field of super melodically inclined rappers. Outside of the fantastic guest verses on songs like OT Genasis's "Cut It" and Gucci's "Bling Blaww Burr," he released four projects (King of Memphis, Bosses Up, Bosses and Shooters, Rich Crack Baby) that deserve extended praise in a year full of exceptionalism. Dolph doesn't just cut through the noise with his music; he also offers a perspective on what is true in the world. While each of these recent releases is evidence that he's been criminally overlooked the past 12 months, it's the first of these, King of Memphis, that most clearly illustrates the path Dolph has laid out for us.
From the beginning of the Mike Will Made It and Resource-produced intro "Facts" you already know that this is going to be something worth your time. It's a great display of lyricism, with each verse punctuated with a hook that lets you know exactly what he, and the album, are about:
"Young nigga blessed
I feel like everyday God's putting me through a test
Since I was 17 I ain't been able to get no rest
Bill time coming up, and guess who's payin' the rent?"
The rest of the album, featuring production from Zaytoven, Nard & B, and a host of other prominent trap names, follows suit. We follow Dolph as he reflects on his past, boasts about his progress, and dreams of even more in the future. The whole thing has a Thug Motivation:101 feel to it, a display of self confidence that we'd all do well to learn from. Halfway through you're not sure if this is an album full of songs or motivational speeches. The punchlines sound more like mantras a yogi or self help coach might suggest. It replenishes your soul and desire to achieve like very few pieces of art do—music or any other medium.
There are too many great tracks to truly pick a stand out. The club-run "Let Me See It" is a similar display to "Facts," the second verse seeing him going on a tour of some of the country's finest strip joints. "Royalty" is Dolph sharing what's it's like to be the King. Lines like "My great great granddaddy used to be a slave" and "I'm always on the way to get the money, don't ever ask me where I'm going" provide a wide but comprehensive view of Dolph's day-to-day mindset and give insight into how he became the person he is. Another of the more exceptional tracks, "USA," is another reflection on his past and the opportunities he's been afforded through his efforts:
"Drop a four in the Faygo
Remember all them days we had to eat hot dogs and potatoes?
Ain't no love in the streets, man
Come take a walk in these Givenchys on my feet, man
You ever been so hungry you couldn't go to sleep, man?"
Trying to pick out the bad parts of King of Memphis is a tough task. Not saying they're not there, but they can all be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. There are a number of instances throughout the album you could point at as being defining moments, but Dolph's greatest strength across the whole work is that he speaks the Truth. King of Memphis is one big presentation of the Truth, and that alone makes it a special project. But what exactly is the Truth? Well there are truths, things that are relatable that we may have experienced ourselves that are communicated by any number of artists. These are all rooted in perspective and experience, what you know to be the way something may change with someone else dependent on where they're from, the person they are, and the experiences they've been limited to. But then there's the Truth, and the Truth is another stronger, much rarer force . No matter how the Truth it's said or presented, it resonates within anyone who hears it. The specifics are not the important part, the Truth doesn't lie in details and technicalities, but in that what the deliverer is saying applies across the board. Economic status, racial or religious background, nor any other social factors are what makes it such. That's one of the biggest reasons as to why it's a very scary thing.
The public at large is not used to hearing the Truth. Usually when it is spoken, the reaction can be any number of things, and like most things that we aren't familiar with, it's met with backlash and fear. It's not just about the Truth itself, but what comes with knowing it. You have to sometimes accept the fact that everything you believed is wrong and your ideas on different people, places, and situations will have to shift. A lot of people, depending on any number of circumstances, have to come to terms with the Truth at earlier points in life than others. Some never have to accept it, and choose to remain in their bubbles, refusing to view the world as it is. It's much easier to remain as you are and not put any effort towards being better, many go out of their ways to do so every single day. But the Truth can't be beat in the long run. Because the Truth is what's already there, it's immovable. You can't be your most perfect self trying to repress forces outside of your control. You acknowledge, adapt, set yourself forward with as clear a path as you can make for yourself. King of Memphis is an example of what happens when that strategy works out really well.
The details of King of Memphis are in a certain lifestyle, but the Truth is in something much more. Where Dolph talks about his ascendancy from poverty, struggles with addiction, and monetary successes. the Truth he speaks of, is the celebration of one's fortitude to overcome odds and be better than you were yesterday, hopefully leading to you one day becoming the person you've always dreamed of being. And who can't relate to that?
King of Memphis is an ode to what all aspire to be—not necessarily the perfect version of ourselves, but the most complete, with clear understanding of where and how we can improve. Most likely a few run throughs of King of Memphis won't change or fix your life dramatically, but it will remind you of the Truth in life and how capable you are of succeeding through it. You're capable of moving mountains, of breaking the sky in half. Maybe just capable of getting out of bed in the morning and beating back all the bullshit that comes at you for another day. There's a certain beauty in music that captures special moments and feeling, but what about the stuff that talks about what everyone of us goes through everyday? We all have different experiences with romance, loss, the feelings we all go through that make it tough to just be a times. But what unifies us all is that struggle, pain, and the desire for self improvement. Sometimes just managing to exist is something to be proud of, but none of us want that to be our baseline for success. The one thing that every human being has in common is that we all want more. And that right there is what King of Memphis, and Young Dolph, are about.
Trey Smith thinks all y'all are cops for not listening to Young Dolph. Follow him on Twitter.
Lead photo via Getty Images