For the last several years, Suga City's
fluctuated near the top of my Arkansas rap power list. For several specific reasons that all pretty much come down to this: The duo — Arkansas Bo and Goines — is familiar enough ("palatable" might be a better word) for mainstream appeal, but still terrifically unique. They each have deep and distinctive Southern drawls. They're full of swag, but often funny, too — a rare combination. For the most part, they've favored ultra-minimal production, often rooted in throwback soul. Lyrically, their best work as a duo has been about girls with big asses and looking cool, but on solo mixtapes, each spends a lot on weightier topics like diagnosing societal ills and problems within rap.
Beyond sound and content, they're with Conduit Ent., who long had a distribution deal with big-deal indie Koch. Lately, word from label head honcho Chane "Epiphany" Morrow is that they're trying to leverage a better deal elsewhere.
That together had me crazy excited for "Leaks of Controversy,"
Suga City's just released first full-length mixtape. Maybe I set my sights too high. Download "Leaks."
It's more than worth hearing. Like those aforementioned solo mixes —Bo's "I Know That's Right" and Goines "Lead by Example" — it's smartly curated. Over the twirp of a heart monitor, Osyrus booms out a poetic State of the Rap Game intro that's totally cinematic. Sampled throughout are bits of Cody Chesnutt, Prince, Outkast, rednecks hating on rap, Eddie Murphy's "yo, baby, yo, baby" riff from "Beverly Hills Cop." Everything flows nicely.
Except, in spots, Bo and Goines. Both are dextrous rappers, able to maintain all sorts of paces serviceably. But they do slow and deliberate, full of drawled-out dipthongs and rhymes that would never work without their accents, exceedingly well. Why mess with anything else? Even more why do a "Bombs Over Baghdad"-paced track and ask 607, who's the champ of speed rap, to guest? Goines and Bo don't sound bad on "Really," but Six murders
It's hard, too, to find the controversy of the title. Bo takes up again his position as rap's critic on the inside, decrying auto-tune and, in a funny mimicked bit, MCs who laugh in rhymes to hide deficiencies. On point? Sure. But controversial? Not so much.
I doubt the most provocative moments were intentional. Gay slurs have long been a regular part of rap (Slate recently argued
, acrobatically if not quite successfully, that "no homo" is progressive in contemporary rap culture), but Bo and Goines go out of their way to flaunt their homophobia, most offensively in a stupid, stupid nursery rhyme-style song about anal sex.
That's the stupidest bit, but not the only one. The hook for "Show Me" is "just show me your boobs," a proposition so lamely worded you'd somebody's 14-year-old brother got to ghostwrite.
"Leaks" suffers for those missteps, but there are bright spots. A dark, triumphant remix of "Jim Brown" matches the tracks' riotous anger. Breezy flows and skittering, Kanye-sounding production serve as a nice counterpoint to lyrics about status and anxiety in "Got 2." Bo has several really nice small moments. He calls himself "raps' Hugh Jackman." I don't know what that means, but it's funny. My favorite part of the whole mix is when he gives sing-songs, in the voice of a sort of Greek chorus, "Oh-oh-oh-oh, it's Bo-oh-oh."
But as bright as "Leaks" shines in spots, nothing hits as hard as songs like "Biggie," "Lookin,'" "Savoir Faire" or even the best tracks from the solo mixtapes.
It's been awhile for the group. Bo lives in Dallas these days, and this release signals the end of a long hiatus. I've got my fingers crossed that's it's just a stretch before heavy lifting to come.