On his debut full-length, King of Memphis, it only takes a matter of seconds for Young Dolph to pledge allegiance to the Trap God: “I can’t wait ‘till my boy get home / free my nigga Gucci.” As the specter of the currently incarcerated Gucci Mane looms large over the southeast region – where rappers and producers he birthed are increasingly rising to international stardom – it’s fitting that Dolph, perhaps one of his more pronounced spiritual heirs, should acknowledge his influence right off the jump.
Gucci Mane’s impact is everywhere on the Memphis native’s debut. The production roster is heavily tilted toward familiar Atlanta staples (Mike Will Made-It and Zaytoven are two direct Guwop disciples) and Dolph’s changing speeds of cadence – that of a slow-mo, more palatable incarnation of Silkk the Shocker – are very reminiscent of Gucci Mane’s flow on “Don’t Deserve It,” only extrapolated over an entire album.
An artist transparently wearing their influences is not exactly a new concept (it’s also worth noting that Dolph has Gucci’s valuable co-sign) and while Gucci’s impression can drift toward distraction at times, King of Memphis is still a work from an artist carving out his own space – Young Dolph is fully capable of being on his own shit.
On “Fuck It,” a solid banger produced by DJ Squeeky that finds Dolph in a moment of calm ambivalence, he shows off a cleverness that’s certainly aided his rise: “I made enough cake in the trap to send my kids to Stanford / Baby Dolph already hustling and he still in pampers.” And later, on the track “Get Paid,” he offers up a Fight Club-ian mantra that sounds much cooler than anything penned by Palahniuk: “Rule number 1: get the money / Rule number 2: don’t forget to get the money.”
“Let Me See It” (produced by Mike Will Made-It) is another bright spot that shows off Dolph’s sense of humor: “I gave the mailman a high five and told him ‘have a great day!’” and tracks like “Royalty” and “USA” display an artist with conceptual acumen who just straight-up rides a beat really fucking well. Any arguments of derivative elements aside, Dolph definitely has something that’s worth our attention.
There’s a really tired “What if?” in hip-hop that goes something like, “What if (insert dead rapper) were still around? Would so-and-so be nearly as successful?” This fall, Gucci Mane gets out of prison, and though he’s put out quite a bit of work during his stay, we may actually see this hypothetical play out without any necromancy. That’s not to say Gucci is going to come out and start bodying everybody he’s spawned (then again, he might), but it’s going to be interesting to see an almost mythological character walk amongst his descendents. In the meantime, Young Dolph, ascending to his own space, is another on an ever-growing roster that carries on the legacy of the benevolent Trap God.