Chronicles: Young Scooter – Street Lottery

The new tape from Black Migo leader / Freeband member is here and it’s fantastic. Young Scooter manages to establish a compelling persona across almost all of “Street Lottery’s” tracks, skillfully maneuvering between winning drug king and flawed, hurt hustler with an understated musicality. The production, especially that from longtime trap genius Zaytoven is outstanding and an overwhelming testament to the positive effects of MDMA; there are so many wonderful airy trance arpeggios and swelling come-ups on this tape. A remastered high quality would be nice.

Rap is all about a voice, and that’s what immediately makes Young Scooter interesting. Rapping in a lazy pinched shout, he cuts through every beat with a suppressed sing-song swing, the slow end-line couplets affording the music plenty of room. The runs of distinct couplets that make up his verses mean that each statement is given plenty of time to generate its impact, so when a particularly sharp image or idea lands, it feels huge. In this way, Young Scooter establishes his on record self quickly and with a close economy of language; true, it helps that street rap stereotypes are the reductive to the point of insanity, but Young Scooter defines himself by deviating from cliches and slipping significant depth and honesty into many of his best verses. Whether evoking the emptiness of city poverty on “Made it through the Struggle“: ‘I couldn’t wait to get to school: that’s my meals all week’, or acknowledging the fragility of a hustler’s life on “Run Ya Bands Up“: ‘I live a dope boy life. When you hustling, some days you can’t get right’, there is enough newness and unexpected turns in his raps to make us listen.

Stream: Young Scooter – Run Ya Bands Up  

But for all Young Scooter’s excellent efforts, “Street Lottery” succeeds most often because of the sustained brilliance of its production. Varied, innovative and rarely bogged down by current trends, “Street Lottery” is one of the best produced mixtapes of the past year; Metro Boomin, Izze The Producer and Lil Lody all showing up and doing good. But from the diamond highs of “Julio”, to the neon rooftop night of “Nothin Important Than Money”, to the vintage trap of “Street Lights” (featuring an OJ verse no less!) it is Zaytoven who really defines this tape. He has always been an outstanding producer, most famously during Gucci Mane‘s astonishing mid career run, but he’s never really transitioned from street mixtape king to industry producer du jour. Listening to this tape one wonders why; he sounds as vital and as new as he ever did, almost always landing at the elusive join between practiced craft and experimentation.

Then there’s another fantastic partnership between Future and Young Scooter. As a duo they make perfect sense, each existing as a parallel opposite on the Rapper/Singer spectrum. Their combined efforts make “Julio” one of the standout tracks on “Street Lottery”; Future’s enormous, unstoppable, entirely unique charisma hitting hard despite his restrained verse (honestly, he outshines Young Scooter, but come on, it’s Future). Elsewhere the guests are of an expected mixed quality: Gucci Mane shows up on two tracks with two of the most quotable verses of the tape. “Work” is stunning and full of rolling squashed assonance: ‘They say crime don’t pay, well if crime don’t pay then I’m lying, not flying, and the sun ain’t shining’, and on “Street Lights” he slows his flow to a boss’s supreme calm: ‘It don’t bother me that he got more than me // You know it’s loyalty over royalties // Got the bail money for you and the lawyer fees’. And I’m not sure how or why Ma$e has a verse on a 2013 Young Scooter mixtape, but it’s kinda great anyway you approach it. Low points include Chief Keef’s long but lazy verse over an undistinguished Mike Will production and also Bun B having his voice coated in an awkward, aging digital distort on the tape’s eponymous track.

Stream: Young Scooter – Work (feat. Gucci Mane)

Away from these insignificant negatives, perhaps the best verse on the best song of the entire project belongs to Marco on “Nothin Important Than Money“, who, in his sharp croak, tells a story about coping with, and eventually overcoming, childhood lack. His verse ends with the ostentatious triumph of newfound success and that’s typical of “Street Lottery”; it’s filled with moments of unfiltered, apparently inconsequential celebration, but it earns them.

Young Scooter’s Street Lottery is out now, available as a free download.

Ian Maxwell