City Girls Turn Their Renewed Bond Into Another Big Win On ‘City On Lock’

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The City Girls are back at full-strength and once again subverting expectations on their latest album, City On Lock — their first release since JT’s release from prison for credit card fraud. The two Miami go-getters haven’t lost a step on their new release, picking up right where they left off on 2018’s Girl Code.

At the heart of their lascivious luxury raps is the understanding that America is an unequal society. As JT says in the larcenous outro from “That Old Man,” these dudes are dumb — the quiet part is that those dummies somehow wound up with all the resources and power. If they’re desperate enough for a taste of affection from women who obviously only want to use them to get a leg up in a man’s world, that’s not the City Girls’ problem.

City On Lock arrives at a critical juncture in the duo’s evolution. They made their bones in early 2018 as a throwback to the fierce, unapologetic thirst trap rap of Miami forebear Trina, spitting blunt punchlines about transactional relationships with men over neck-snapping, high-energy instrumentals. Their brand was simple, but not basic, embracing the same logic that drives BackPage and OnlyFans accounts to this day. If someone is buying, they’re willing to sell.

They were also willing to make money in a more underhanded, Hustlers-esque way: Cracking cards and swiping away to get the glamorous accoutrements they rapped about. The life caught up to them, sending JT — the more lyrically-gifted of the two and the engine of their dreams of rap stardom — to prison for a year and leaving Yung Miami, who had been content to continue trading company for cash, to carry the flag alone.

Miami then got pregnant with her second child — a prospect that once would have derailed the entire enterprise due to the archaic and misogynist rules of the new game they’d chosen to play. Motherhood is already a fraught proposition; for rap starlets whose primary selling point is their sex appeal, it should have been disastrous. But JT came home, coronavirus hit, and sex work experienced a boom as more and more women were forced to turn to quarantine-safe occupations.

The resultant shutdown of normal, everyday life gave City Girls the time they needed to regroup and further normalized their brand of raunchy content. if you’re going to twerk to something on Demon Time, it should be something that feels empowering, not degrading, and that’s exactly what their brand of stripper pole-friendly scammer anthems do. City Girls judo flip the world’s masculine-feminine power imbalance on its head, making those transactions a matter of choice rather than survival.

That theme runs throughout City On Lock, from the high-maintenance demands of “Jobs” to the exacting standards of “Broke N****s” to the overt extravagance of “Flewed Out.” The latter adds a snarky layer of playfulness with its title, which Miami coined as part of their 2018 promotion for the song “Twerk.” After a certain class of fans sniffed and glared down their noses at her unpolished language, she simply made it part of the lexicon, earning her rightful place alongside her partner-in-rhyme.

Make no mistake, though; having JT back is this album’s biggest boon. While Miami shows improvement, JT is the driver of group’s lyrical direction, tossing off jeering wordplay reinforcing her and Miami’s dominant role in their dealings with men. “I’m goin’ in, like a bitch got a curfew,” she sneers on “Broke N****s,” “Don’t got my money? Go back to the bitch that birthed you.”

The pair relishes in their sisterhood even above their hunger for luxury, though, praising each other’s profit prowess on “That’s My Bitch” and inviting Doja Cat along for some slick, salacious “Pussy Talk.” Their bond is, after all, what got them here and what has allowed them to outlast their trials to date — including their most recent test, which perfectly demonstrated the skill with which they can reverse and counter any punch thrown at them.

City Girls weren’t set to release City On Lock just yet when it was leaked late on Juneteenth, quickly spreading across the rap internet. The girls responded by dropping the video for “Jobs,” then the entire album. While the duo expressed frustration at the unplanned leak, they had already turned it into a victory, taking the lemons life handed them and turning them into lemonade. In true City Girls fashion, they’re hustling that lemonade into power, profit, and the potential for another runaway hit, proving they really do have the city — and the rap game — on lock.

City On Lock is out now via Quality Control Music/Motown Records. Get it here.