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When most people think of projects from Kevin Gates, it isn’t his recently released debut album, Islah, that comes to mind. Instead, it’s the slew of gutter mixtapes that he’s been putting out for over nine years -- the raw, uncut, unfiltered projects that put the Louisiana rapper on the map. Although Islah was well received and his hit single “2 Phones” earned him a platinum plaque, fans and critics alike love him for the overwhelming street transparency heard on his mixtapes. Lucky for us, not for Gates, his alleged record label deal doesn’t allow him to release another full studio LP until 2017, and consequently we now have Murder for Hire 2, another mixtape that will undoubtedly feed the streets.

At the very end of the intro track “Fuck It,” Gates thanks his listeners and says, “Appreciate you for joining me on this adventure we about to go on” and it might be the realest statement he makes during the entire half hour. MFH2 is a really a true adventure through the complex psyche of a dirty South thug meets converted Muslim meets articulate thinker. Sonically, he remains consistent throughout all eight tracks but there are standout moments that might have you rethinking everything you thought you knew about Gates.

On “The Prayer,” he menacingly raps lines like, “You no longer silent, on some gangster shit/Hoe get out your feelings/All on Instagram/Internet beef, lil' dirty stinky bitch,” which are woven through authentic lines of actual Islamic prayer. He even goes as far as spitting “Quran with me, thumbin' through the Surahs” before talking about more brick flipping and pistol whipping. Those unfamiliar with Gates’ catalog might find tracks of this nature off-putting or contradictory but those accustomed to his unconventional subject matter will enjoy diving into the deeper religious meaning.

When it comes to rapping, Gates has his particular style on lock. His intimidating tone, equipped with his arsenal of flows, makes him a unique voice in this era similar-sounding rappers but what Gates has continuously struggled with is his singing. Especially on this tape, Gates gets caught in these awkward melodies that don’t play to his advantage. On “Believe In Me,” an emotional song about relationship woes, he raps with a fitting conviction but then delicately hums through a chorus that sounds like he’s half asleep. “Lil Nigga” and “Great Example” feature a more seamless use of his singing voice but still doesn’t match the verses or lyrical content. Both those tracks are also the most personal Gates get on the entire project. “Used to get high but I kicked it/Shootin' dog food in my dick” might be a little too much information but for the most part, Gates does a good job of putting together a blueprint for those wanting to follow in his “real dude” footsteps.

There isn’t a song on here that will pop the way “2 Phones” did (although he does make plenty more phone references on “Off Da Meter”) but even after your first listen, it’s easy to tell that his goal wasn’t to fish for another Billboard breaker. Gates is on a proverbial hot streak and is keeping his momentum going with a short dose of creativity.

MFH2 highlights everything we have come to love about Gates and more. Even though he wavers with some vocal performance on a few tracks, he still manages to put together a solid free sample project that should tide us over until his sophomore offering drops next year.

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