Lesser MCs rhyme about the size of their dick; Joyner Lucas raps about cutting his off.
The up-and-coming 28-year-old Massachusetts MC is shockingly candid and vulnerable on "Literally," one of the most ambitious tracks from an LP that's full of them (the name of his debut LP being, presumably, his phone number: 508-507-2209). That song finds him in a deep dialogue with his genitals and the sex drive that led him to cheat, before he's left to contend with the grim consequences.
On "Literally," he also speaks on his insatiable carnality through ghoulish Auto Tune. That means, as a song, it's abrasive and not for everyone by any means, yet the creativity and inventiveness of the concept is in the same vein as some of legendary New York rapper Nas's best deep cuts.
Lucas isn't yet as skilled as the elder Esco, of course. While the ongoing narrative of 508-507-2209 — a series of phone messages and bitterly honest inner dialogues — is laudably creative, there are several instances where Lucas falls short.
Opening track "Ultrasound," for instance, finds him adopting a thrillingly unique flow akin to a sprinkler dousing a blaze, all rapid spitting, but before that, he succumbs to tired old rap tropes like the opening line "bitch get off my dick!" after a skit about his girl calling him with the very reasonable request to stop gambling away her paycheques. The sexist line works in part as an unabashed inner monologue from a flawed man in a tough situation, yet it also sounds anthemic enough to more than border on glorification.
Lucas strikes that balance more successfully on "Lovely," on which, over the sampling of operatic vocals and piano, he shamelessly spits about taking comfort in knowing "There's a whole lot of niggas doing worse than me." To call it an instance of warts-and-all autobiography would be an understatement. Yet, impressive as that is, it's nothing compared to "Keep it 100," a richly literary story rap that features minimalist jazz samples. It's good enough to make Slick Rick, Rakim and the genre's other great narrators grin in admiration.
"We Gon' Be Alright," meanwhile, is equally brilliant, if in a different way. It's the LP's most accessible track, a catchy recession anthem that finds Lucas rapping at the rate of a breathless sprinter over ethereal midtempo keys and a snare that rattles so hard it sounds glitzy. His sing-song delivery on the chorus, meanwhile, has an endearingly playfulness that works within his vocal limitations, unlike the far more irritating attempt on earlier track "Just Like You."
If Lucas' future LPs not only attain, but more successfully maintain, that level of excellence, then he'll have a classic on his hands soon. Until then, 508-507-2209 works as a more than sturdy testament to his considerable potential. (Atlantic)