et’s look at the two sides of the great Rich Gang rapper schism of early 2015.
On the one hand, there’s marble-mouthed savant Young Thug. He’s the consonant-decimating emcee and glowing artifact of Internet criticism made manifest. Undeterred by the end of Rich Gang, Thug has gone his own way. His ascendant stardom has come in the form of leaked songs, controversy with Lil Wayne, and buzz surrounding his live appearances. In mid-September, he followed this spring’s Barter 6 with a new mixtape, Slime Season.
On the other side is Rich Homie Quan. And what of the man born Dequantes Lamar? Equally bullish, Quan went and dropped the 20-track If You Ever Think I Will Stop Going In, Ask Royal Rich. While the songs may meander (more typical of a mixtape), they also deliver further evidence that Quan is more than the one-trick pony many had pegged him for in the wake of his breakout 2013 anthem “Type of Way.” A brief EP Summer Sampler appeared in May. Then, less than half-a-day after Young Thug released Slime Season, Quan offered up a new mixtape, DTSpacely Made This.
Fortuitous isn’t the word for that kind of timing.
Both artists are in continual label limbo (Quan recently sued his label for $2 million while Young Thug is in his own war zone). Thug still hasn’t released his long-promised Metro Boomin collaboration while Quan’s latest 10 songs were produced entirely by DTSpacely. Thug continues to have the most visible online presence but listen to urban radio anywhere in the U.S. and you’ll find Quan’s “Flex” inescapable. Words get spilled for Thug; Quan gets a charting song named after him (iHeart Memphis with “Hit the Quan”). Young Thug’s increasingly insular, melodically cerebral vocals stand in stark relief to Quan’s more comfortably conventional delivery.
Therein the great divide. Though their Atlanta origins are similar and their musical fate intertwined briefly on Rich Gang — Bryan “Birdman” Williams’ amalgam of artists from labels Cash Money and Young Money — the two rappers court radically different audiences and benefit from them in kind.
Though DTSpacely Made This is a showcase for the producer, it also makes a strong case Quan’s compelling qualities. Aside from DTSpacely’s typical DJ promos, there’s very little to distract you from Quan’s groove (the only guest is jailed rapper Offset of fellow Atlanta group Migos, and he appears only on the concluding cut “Basement”).
To a gentle piano line, Quan raps through differing flows and an undeniable hook on “Chardonnay.” The slow-mo, drug-loving “Cartel” feels jam-packed for its sub-two-minute runtime. And before he ever rhymes a bar, Quan’s opening moan on “Ol’Man Soul” digs in. At the heart of the song is Quan’s weathered couplet: “I got a ol’ man soul / Feels like I done lived this life before.”
These aren’t the songs of someone toying with diction or enunciation. They belong to someone who’s slowly (and recently) come to understand his limitations and learned to capitalize on them. “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” Quan’s latest track, proves the point: his voice is as vital and necessary as any of his generational Atlanta brethren. Young Thug, Migos, Future, the list goes on. Quan belongs.