First, first: My heart goes out to our neighbors in Snohomish County—the survivors, the families of the dead and missing in Oso, victims of a huge mudslide that crushed homes and cost at least two dozen (at last count) lives just 60 miles from Seattle. As we get embroiled in our own particular self-stuck minutiae, I hope you spare a thought to what you would do if the earth’s rug were pulled out from under you—or over you.
Now to business. Since stepping out with her scene-ganking appearance in the first Young Seattle video, and on her own Jordan V–covered two in 2012 with her debut, Queen La’Chiefah, Gifted Gab (aka the First Lady of Moor Gang™) has widely been regarded as one of the best female rappers from this corner of the country. The fact is—just like another XX-chromosomed MC from this region, Stas from THEESatisfaction—Gab isn’t just one of the best female rappers in the NW, she’s one of its best rappers, period, and should thus be included in all of those tedious conversations that dudes have, comparing art like basketball stats. This, I believe, is the impetus behind the name of her newest, the just-released Girl Rap.
For better or worse, Gab sounds totally comfortable with the (excellent) level at which she raps—that is to say, from Queen to Girl, she didn’t much level up bars- and flow-wise… no sweat, as she’s wicked as ever, sounding quite like a pitched-up Ready to Die–era Chris Wallace on “One Eighty Seven” (her love for Biggie already evidenced over last summer by her one-off take on the classic “Dead Wrong”). Content- and breadth-wise, however, there’s progression here—more real-life disclosure, and to properly express it, more of Gab’s ’90s R&B–esque singing voice, previously hinted at on Queen’s “Orange Skyline” and “My Life.”
Gab’s a classic: a boys-club-proven, boom-bap-devouring devotee of real rap’s hoodies-and-Timbs heyday—and a real woman reflecting on weak dudes in the rearview. Not exactly as concerned with sexism as Dana Owens, Gab has her own pimpish West Coast twist to the blueprint: “I don’t have no mercy for bitches, ’cause really they suck.” Appropriately, she rocks well with her Moor bros Nacho Picasso and Rob Skeetz as well as Oakland’s K.E.L.L.S. on the fittingly regal “King $hit, Queen $hit.” Still, it’s the girls keeping it the realest here—peep JusMoni’s verse on the title track: “The city fills with regular, niggas gas you up/Like you verified on Twitter, blue checks don’t save your spot.”
The production—from the beats to (especially) the mix—isn’t nearly as strong as her first outing, however, and this is the chief weak spot of her newest album. You can’t say it don’t slap, but it lacks punch—most likely, Gab’ll read this and offer to give me the punch I so crave. That said, while I’d love to hear the Gifted one on some backdrops every bit as hard-hitting as she is, there’s no denying this is another Glock-solid release from one of the best voices we’ve heard emerge in the last couple of years.