Gunna Delivers Soothing Songs About the Fast Life on ‘Drip or Drown 2’

Gunna Delivers Soothing Songs About the Fast Life on ‘Drip or Drown 2’

At the beginning of “3 Headed Snake,” from his new album, “Drip or Drown 2,” Gunna is beautifully mumbling. Words are in there somewhere, but they’re genuinely of no concern. Rather than use a mumble to signal confusion or disorientation, he treats blurry words as a thing of exuberance. For him, the dance of pure syllables is almost peppy.

Gunna is not the first rapper to retreat into the warm cocoon of pure tones. He is a dutiful student of Young Thug’s non sequitur filigree, which dominates the sound of streaming and has been put to use by everyone from Post Malone to Lil Baby. But Gunna is preternaturally chill, almost koan-like in his delivery. His voice is whisper-sweet. He raps on beats as if lightly touching them, fearful that they might snap under too much force.

For the last couple of years, the 25-year-old rapper from Georgia has been releasing strong mixtapes steadily — “Drip or Drown 2” doesn’t quite have the full force of last year’s “Drip Season 3” or “Drip Harder,” his collaborative album with Lil Baby, but it is still thick with his signatures: calmness and word manipulation.

Sometimes he bends words so hard that “ways” rhymes with “bags.” Sometimes he emphasizes the rhyme in the middle of the phrase as much as the one at the end of it. Sometimes he is narrative-driven, rapping about new cars, new clothes and new women, but generally he strings clauses together as if absent-minded, a fever dream of excess and bravado. (The most pure version of this here is on “Speed It Up,” where the phrases come hot and short.) In places, he opts for surrealism: “Pop an addy while I’m riding to meet Tom Ford.” And sometimes he leans on humor: “Got vintage garments old as my granny.”

Gunna has a penchant for rapping over beats that include guitar, like on “Richard Millie Plain,” but he doesn’t use them for rock scabrousness. Instead, they’re caressing, soft-edged beds, elegant accompaniment for a rapper who makes his points with textures more than words.

That said, there is a tenderness that peeks through here, not just in the gentleness of the sing-rapping, but also in some of the lyrics. Everyone raps about buying expensive new things, but only Gunna links the ability to spend money wantonly to emotional intimacy. On “Idk Why,” he raps, “Mama thanked me for her purse/And looked me in my face and then she started crying.” And on “Yao Ming,” he relates a tale familiar to anyone who thinks of a loved one while traveling: “Went shopping in Japan, spent more than my show/Brought Thugger back some pants.”

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