Moneybagg Yo’s newest album, A Gangsta’s Pain is the Memphis rapper’s third project in 15 months. After beginning 2020 with Time Served, he teamed up with fellow Memphian Blac Youngsta for their Code Red project which arrived later that summer. The quick releases play a decent role in what makes up Moneybagg Yo the artist. The new project is his tenth since the start of 2017. This consistency coupled with a steady improvement from project to project has brought the rapper a new cast of supporters as his artistry becomes more and more refined.
The frequency of Moneybagg’s releases could cause one to pose the question: is being too active a bad thing? Well, the answer to that is both yes and no. Yes, because one could imagine his growth and improvement making a bigger impression if full-length releases were a bit more spaced out. No, because the Memphis rapper has taken an incremental step upward with each project as they arrive. Prior efforts like Federal 3X and Heartless see an artist slowly figuring it out while later admitting to mistakes thanks to hindsight. Recent efforts like Time Served capture Moneybagg in a new tier while A Gangsta’s Pain sees him finding comfort in this zone while setting his eyes on the next level.
Ironically this new zone the Memphis native has stepped into finds him moving out of his comfort zone a bit. Displaying A Gangsta’s Pain means unearthing the emotions that one most likely ignored and gave a cold shoulder to when asked about. On multiple occasions, Moneybagg tones down the clang of his chains to let the sound of his heartbeat echo. From the intimacy behind “One Of Them Nights” with Jhene Aiko to the uncaged sensitivity on “Love It Here,” Moneybagg’s heart slowly thaws with the warmth of a ride-or-die companion. Backed the return of Future’s Hndrxx alter-ego, “Hard For The Next” notes that while love and its longevity may not be guaranteed, making the best of the present moment is a bar Moneybagg will reach for.
The pains and struggles of yesterday’s inflictions are also laid on wax throughout A Gangsta’s Pain. He questions life and the many let-downs he experienced through it all on “If Pain Was A Person.” His hurt is merely an emotion that rattles the brain and weighs on the heart, but personifying this emotion creates a one-sided discussion that allows Moneybagg to vent and get what he needs off his chest. Strong moments like these come on the heels of weaker ones and as the nostalgic keys of Ashanti’s “Foolish” play underneath a mellow bass, Moneybagg’s “Wockesha” admits to repeatedly succumbing to the toxic drink that always counters his attempt to push it away with a defeating punch like the one Kamaru Usman delivered in front of the world not too long ago.
In between the rain of emotion that flows on A Gangsta’s Pain, the thunder and flash of Moneybagg’s rap prowess arrive to balance out the album. It’s how the Memphis native best knows how to present himself and why many of his fans fell in love with his music. He accomplishes this through assertive raps laced with overt confidence about the man and rapper he’s grown into over the years. Moneybagg isn’t someone who’s done his people wrong, he tells us that on “Projects” with lines like, “If you ever gave your word, then you must stand on that,” adding, “Just jumped off a private, took ten black trucks to the projects.” The self-solidifying talk continues on “Certified Neptunes,” an effort supported by a cold hook from Pharrell that brings listeners back to his days as a Clipse sidekick. “If your loyalty don’t match mine, it ain’t sh*t wit’ you,” Moneybagg proclaims, detailing a simple quality that is foundational in his world, and one that serves as the root of his gangsta’s pain when broken.
When you take a look into the past, it’s hard to deny the progress Moneybagg has made in his career, especially the last five years he’s spent inching closer and closer to the mainstream spotlight. A Gangsta’s Pain is the Memphis native’s most diverse project to date thanks to a deeper and more concise dive into the personal side of his life as well as tapping into production his fans had yet to hear him with him, like The Neptunes for example. A slight critique of the project would be its length as a 22-track — 21 songs and an interlude — effort will often be a bit of drag to listen to no matter the artist. However, when it comes time to detail A Gangsta’s Pain, one may take advantage of all the time they have to get the story across well, something Moneybagg Yo very much accomplished.
A Gangsta’s Pain is out now via CMG/N-Less/Interscope. Get it here.