Music

Kash Doll’s Polished Debut, ‘Stacked,’ Is Well Worth The Wait

If there’s any way to sum up Detroit rapper Kash Doll’s brash, devil-may-care ethos, it can be found on the fourth song from her long-awaited debut album, Stacked. “‘They call us ‘hoes’ and ‘bitches,’ so what, n**** we paid bitches,'” she snarls on the appropriately-titled “Paid Bitches.” With the influx of such a diverse selection of women and styles into the rap mainstream over the last two years, it may not be terribly original, but it’s presented with so much polish and panache, Kash can’t help but become the sort of charismatic character that hip-hop loves to see in the Winners Circle.

This sort of success has been a long time coming for the Detroit rapper, who precedes the rising wave of rap girl power by several years. Before Saweetie went viral freestyling on Instagram for likes or Tierra Whack drew the attention of critics with her wildly creative 15-minute EP Whack World, Kash Doll had already released her first mixtape, Keisha vs. Kash Doll, in December of 2015. With it came an initial surge of blog love and fan support, marking her as one of rap’s potential rising stars.

However, as is often the case with emerging talents in hip-hop, her followup was delayed for reasons that remain hazy — Kash has referenced signing a shady recording contract in the wake of her first mixtape’s success that barred her from releasing new music — and she turned to social media to maintain her buzz. She toured, opened for Drake, collaborated with heavy hitters like Big Sean and Rick Ross, and weathered industry controversy when it was revealed that YG had swapped her verse on “She Bad” for one from Cardi B, then granted the song to Cardi’s debut album, Invasion Of Privacy.

And while Kash developed something of a reputation for sparking friction with many of her fellow female rappers, she could hardly be blamed for taking umbrage to her treatment by the industry and by so many newer rappers adopting her “Doll” naming convention. Fortunately, when she was released from her deal in 2017 and dropped the Brat Mail mixtape as a “thank you” to her fans for maintaining their support all that time, there wasn’t any bitterness in her flow, just pride, gratefulness, and determination.

Those themes continue to underpin her music on Stacked, which draws on her Detroit connections and battle-tested hustle on 17 assertive, braggadocious tracks that establish her worldview as one predicated on her independence and self-possession. On “Ice Me Out,” she demands that her admirer give her “twenty bands for a f*cking anklet” while promising to “put you in a drought / When you try to ice me out.” As a technician, Kash proves that she can hold her own with some of hip-hop’s favorite punchline masters like Big Sean (“Ready Set“) and Lil Wayne (“Kitten“), slinging her own clever double entendres throughout the album. “I’m the puppet master, pullin’ strings just like a banjo,” she crows on “Mobb’n,” “If you ain’t ’bout that life then get the f*ck up out the bando.”

Kash’s topics bounce back and forth between boastful displays of her self-earned wealth and the travails of stressful relationships. Guest singer Summer Walker laments that “these boys are all the same” on “No Lames,” on which Kash proclaims that she’s not “the type to get the bleach on all your stuff,” but on “Krazy” she goes tit for tat with LouGotCash, threatening to do exactly that, menacing her cheating man: “You can leave but that dick gotta stay here.” But she’s at her best on more vulnerable tracks like “Excuses” and “KD Diary,” where she addresses the rough circumstances of her come-up and the weight up responsibility with “lil’ girls lookin’ at me / I’m really tryna be not just look happy.”

Knowing that she’s a slick rapper and has a compelling story, Kash is able to pay special attention to perhaps the most important aspect of any solid debut: The beats. The album excels here, thanks to the eclectic mix of production from 3NP, Andre “Dre” Harris, Fast Life Beats, FKi 1st, ISM, Nic Nac, Pliznaya, and Take A Daytrip, who experiment with sounds and tempos, giving Kash plenty of opportunities to flex her versatility as a rapper. Generally, she nails it; there are a few tracks where faster tempos leave her racing the beat instead of riding it, and of course, some listeners will be thrown by more adventurous stuff like the scream-y “Cheap Sh*t,” but she handles each style like a champ, from the trappy R&B on her love songs to the Miami/New Orleans Bounce mashup on “Buss It.”

Stacked is well worth the wait despite its few drawbacks. Kash’s chemistry with the guests on her album can invoke some pangs of disappointment that she probably prefers not to collaborate with peers like Cardi or Megan Thee Stallion (or even, in an alternate universe, patch things up with fellow Dolls Asian and Cuban), while the extended tracklist could use one or two cuts. However, as a showcase of one of the most polished and self-possessed “new” rappers in the game, debut albums rarely get much better.

Stacked is out now via Republic Records. Get it here.

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