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2020’s Queen Of Da Souf may have been Latto’s official major-label debut, but it’s on her new album, 777, that she finally arrives. The Clayton County rapper gets an effective redo on her first impression thanks to a timely name change and the world reopening post-pandemic. She makes the most of it on her latest LP, which presents a polished and poised new version of the instantly compelling artist she was on her debut.
You’d be forgiven for not even noticing when Queen Of Da Souf dropped in August of 2020. The world was five months into a global lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID, but that state of affairs also prevented many of the emerging artists who released music that year from being able to spread their art, as well. Despite having strong, deeply-rooted records such as the Gucci Mane-featuring “Muwop” and the Lil Baby collaboration “Sex Lies” on it, Queen Of Da Souf was unable to gain much traction outside of Latto’s previously established fanbase.
It likely didn’t help that she was hampered by her unseemly stage name at the time, Mulatto, which evoked accusations of colorism. Despite not choosing the name she was saddled with as a child performer in her native Georgia, she was forced to field uncomfortable critiques and conversations about intent and perception. Now free of that particular burden, she can direct the focus where it ought to be: on the music.
As much focus as there is likely to be thrown onto big pop swings on the album like the lead single, “Big Energy” – which is her most successful song to date – where Latto continues to shine is in the songs that most heavily draw from the Southern influences of her hometown. Atlanta’s preferred emphasis on booming 808s and snickering snare drums is often the lane in which Latto finds herself most comfortable. On tracks like “Soufside,” “Stepper,” and the pair of title tracks, Latto swaggers and shines, projecting the essence of hip-hop’s foundation of braggadocio.
“It’s Givin” is a standout, stripping down the lush instrumentation on her more radio-ready material to offer a throwback to the skeletal drum machine productions of the late ‘80s. Likewise, “Wheelie,” which reunites Latto with fellow ATL staple 21 Savage, gives her the room to stretch her legs and strut her confident, unapologetic sex rhymes. However, her biggest risks tend to be the ones that pay off the most; on “Sunshine,” she goes to church with Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino, outshining her collaborators on the lush, organ-driven inspirational. It’s by far the most interesting song on the album, even when Gambino can’t help but stick his foot in his mouth by recalling Latto’s old moniker in reference to his own kids.
Fortunately, the other collaborators on the project, like Lil Durk and Nardo Wick, manage to stick to the subject matter at hand. It’s disappointing that she chooses to be part of Kodak Black’s ongoing image rehabilitation campaign (it’s probably only a matter of time until he finds a way to publicly embarrass her with this bet), but Durk and Wick largely do what they’re expected to do. Still, it’s Latto’s show, and like the fond diminutive she’s floated for her growing fanbase, she hits the jackpot, earning her spot in rap’s upper echelon. Whether boasting and bragging on the party joints or turning inward on tracks like “Sleep Sleep,” Latto makes one hell of a second first impression.
777 is out now via Streamcut and RCA Records. Get it here.