Recommended: Starlito – Mental WARfare
Starlito’s follow-up to the the straight to YouTube, jacking-for-beats mixtape “For My Foes” is every bit the personal journey the title and cover art suggest. “Mental WARfare” finds Lito laying both heart and mind bare on majority of the seventeen track tape. The first song, “Hope for Love” opens the album with a struggle and loner anthem, a great opener he uses to lament the distance between best friends thanks to prison and other unspecified circumstances. Starlito’s charm is in full effect here (not to say it isn’t throughout the entire tape), sounding genuine and passionate as he vents the frustrating aspects of his life. This is a big aspect of Starlito’s music as he carries the torch for absent friends and continuing in music when a label all but forgot about him.
The ease with which he manages to switch between heavy, trunk rattlers like “Live From The Kitchen”, “The Ville” to more laid back, inspiring and cautionary tale tracks such as “Nortriptyline” (a drug used to treat depression) is admirable, and a versatility most rappers aspire to. That last track sees Starlito dealing with the consequences of misplaced love (“Love, the worst drug they got out right now”), and the lack of it in an immediate family. While it’s a somber song with a sobering piece of storytelling, it ends with a positive and romantic message; “Make love, fuck sex.” The song transitions smoothly into one of our favorite tracks on the album, the DJ Burn One produced “Chill”. A mellow, faded beat that neither Starlito or guest Don Trip have a problem finding the pocket of, and staying all the way in it. The former doing it so effortlessly he actually loses himself in it “Hold up, I think maybe I was supposed to have four more bars. I’ll just repeat it.”
A big part of what makes “Mental WARfare” one of Starlito’s strongest releases in his discography is a level of cohesion throughout that isn’t as well executed on his previous releases. Not only do song transitions make sense, and work well, but song concepts and interludes work to keep the central theme of juggling mental health in the forefront. The interludes (accurately titled “Lito Speaks”, 1-3) are short phone recorded chunks inside head. From bits of knowledge in the first/intro about how holding back tears gives you headaches to a self-confessed moment of paranoia as he admits to thinking three or four cars were following him on his way to a family dinner. On one of the “Lito Speaks” interludes he talks about “going that much harder” and it shows. Calling “Mental WARfare” his best work is hardly a stretch. Much like Curren$y before him, Starlito is a much stronger artist post Cash Money Records and if he can manage to keep this energy up we have no doubt he’ll be able to go as far as his ex-label mate.