Music

Polo G’s ‘Hall Of Fame 2.0’ Is A Solid Cap To A Stellar Year

Very few artists in hip-hop have had as good a year as Polo G. The 22-year-old Chicagoan released his latest studio album, Hall Of Fame 2.0, his third in as many years, building on the momentum from his first two well-received albums, Die A Legend and The Goat. That momentum paid off in a big way: Hall Of Fame yielded the rapper’s first No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 chart as well as his first-ever No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 chart with album single “Rapstar.”

This past new music Friday, he doubled down on this success with the release of the almost inevitable deluxe edition of the album, Hall Of Fame 2.0. And while I have issues with this trend as a whole, as Hall Of Fame 2.0 is likely the last one of the year, I think it demonstrates something about Polo G that explains how he’s been able to become so dominant so quickly and remain so consistent since — his strategic thinking.

While most artists never seem to have much discernible logic behind their deluxe follow-ups to their albums, Polo’s release seems intentional. It’s become customary to release as many as 20 new songs under the auspices of an existing release up to a year after the original, which is a tactic with both pros (juicing those streaming stats) and cons (you really could just release an EP or mixtape and save the marketing budget for your next full-length).

However, Polo drops his at the very tail end of the year, where it can garner more attention in a less saturated market and function as an unofficial victory lap, reminding fans of his accomplishments in 2021 while setting up his springboard for the coming year. The 14 new tracks fit with the original set; Polo is firmly in his comfort zone here, and only the heads-up single, “Bad Man (Smooth Criminal)” pushes any boundaries with its unexpected Michael Jackson sample.

Likewise, the album’s features stick largely to Polo’s established wheelhouse; we hear him again collaborate with his compatriots Lil Baby and Lil Tjay, and he taps generational peer NLE Choppa, as well as Choppa’s fellow Memphian Moneybagg Yo. The subject matter remains as chilling as ever, with morose recollections of fallen friends and fatalistic threats steeped in the real-life violence of Chicago’s rougher neighborhoods. Especially effective is “Young N Dumb,” a somber salute to homies that have passed on.

What sets Polo apart from the glut of similar acts is the sharpness of his pen; he writes rhymes like a veteran backpacker, clumping together clusters of multisyllabic rhyming patterns that still value narrative and imagery over wordplay — of which there’s still plenty. He’s probably one of the most complete rappers his generation has produced so far, which makes his ascension all the more impressive.

But it’s that strategic mindset that is his true attribute and why he has avoided the pitfalls that have tripped up so many predecessors and peers. He stays out of drama; you’ll almost never see him on the news for getting into it with haters or “opps” (he dodged charges in Miami for allegedly fighting with police) he used his rap money to buy his mom a house rather than an ostentatious display of wealth, he has released music on a consistent schedule, and when he does indulge in trends like putting out a deluxe reissue rather than a new album, he makes it worth fans’ while and ensures the release stands on its own.

Even naming it Hall Of Fame 2.0 makes it feel like a separate project, even if it is ultimately an extension of the original. I even wondered whether the timing was planned out to give him enough leeway to take a break, live some life and build some distance between him and the trauma that marks his first three releases so he can stylistically evolve for his fourth full-length. It would keep with his overall strategic mindset, which suggests that his future will live up to the goals he’s set with each of his album’s titles.

Hall Of Fame 2.0 is out now via Columbia Records. You can stream it here.

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