At the time of this writing, Kevin Gates’ major label debut, Islah, is one of only two rap albums released this year to be awarded platinum certification by the RIAA (the other being Drake’s massive, guest-star-laden VIEWS).
It’s a remarkable accomplishment for an album with no featured guests, apart from the Ty Dolla $ign/Trey Songz/Jamie Foxx trifecta on the bonus track “Jam.” It’s all Gates, a summation of his career that pushes him into new but logical directions.
At once too-much-coffee intense, disarmingly gentle, and unfashionably sincere—often all at the same time—Islah is a lot to take in, but having zero chill is one of Gates’ greatest strengths. On “Ain’t Too Hard” he raps, “Sometimes emotions get the best of me clearly/And I ain’t never try to straddle no fences.” May he never aim for the middle ground. –Renato Pagnani