In the face of fracturing rap crews and dormant Hip Hop labels, Lil Durk’s Only The Family collective stands for a type of loyalty — a brand of continuity — that almost feels nostalgic to the Murder Incs, Cash Money Records and No Limit Records of the past. The clique’s been there through all the various points in Durkio’s unconventional rise-fall-and-rise-again.
Durk’s name-dropped them enough to ensure you know them even if you don’t know their raps. So then, it’s too bad that Durk’s latest OTF compilation project, Lil Durk Presents: Loyal Bros 2, doesn’t feature the sort of collectivism that helped make their best collaborations so electric. While it’s got spurts of exhilarating bars, and everyone here sounds comfortable, it’s stifled by a lack of connectivity, which prevents it from justifying its running time.
Laced with OTF’s typical brand of sinister beats and intermittently evocative bars, there are times when Loyal Bros 2 soars, particularly in its first half. For “Mad Max,” Durk plays off Future’s murmuring menace, attacking pummeling 808s with threats that are so vicious and so direct that you can almost feel him sneering at you. The song title probably isn’t a direct reference to the film of the same name, but the track, with its ominous chords and addictive hook, feels like a soundtrack for desert warfare. Meanwhile, on “Set It Off,” Durk unloads hyper-specific bars at the intersection of friendship and violence for couplets that can only come from lived experience: “Bro don’t hop in that car, you all we got, don’t put that shit at stake/Ain’t gon’ judge you brodie, if you ain’t no killer, run my real estate.” It’s a dense collection of life or death scenarios packaged with ecstatic adlibs and a flow that’s frenzied, yet controlled.
Those songs are powered by Durk himself, but the project is meant to be an OTF showcase, and the members definitely hold their own… at times. Doodie Lo emits convincing terror whether he’s trading bars with Kodak Black or fellow OTF crew members. Using his husky rasp, he lets loose the most dangerous kind of promise on “ISTG, Pt. 2,” an apocalyptic anthem that ties together rage, brotherhood and the OTF lifestyle in compelling fashion. Doodie’s PGF Nuk-assisted track “Savage Shit” has much of the same effect. Using blunt street lyrics, Chief Wuk and Booka600 have their moments, too.
And yet, Loyal Bros 2 is never great for more than two minutes at a time, and ironically, a big part of that is a dearth of posse cuts. Some of that is outside of the clique’s control. SlimeLife Shawty’s been caught up in the YSL R.I.C.O. case for most of the year, Memo600 was allegedly kicked out of the group, and King Von, by far the most talented member of the group, has now been dead for more than two years. But still, the product is the product, and you can feel their absences.
While the first Loyal Bros had five solo tracks that gave individual Durk affiliates room to shine, Loyal Bros 2 goes overboard with nine such tracks. When it’s Durk holding things down, the songs generally come out strong enough, but handled by acts with less charisma and all-around songwriting dynamism, the tracks end up drab, with unimaginative, expressionless lyrics rendering them as cliche filler. Noza Jordan’s “Forever” is set up to be a heartfelt reflection, but his lyrics are so generic, the track feels like it could belong to any made-for-TV hood movie. Same goes for Booka600’s “Menace” and OTF Jam’s “Federal Freestyle.” Von makes an appearance on the project— and it’s a good one — but his presence also helps accentuate OTF Boonie Moe’s general lack of magnetism (“For Real”).
Aside from Doodie Lo, not many OTF members are all that compelling as solo acts, but on their last project, that much was offset by the way they bounced off each other when collaborating. A significant majority of tracks on Loyal Bros featured more than one artist, and that, along with the cohesion of the collaborators, gave it a propulsive force that’s sorely lacking on its sequel. The largely underwhelming solo tracks often halt any sense of momentum for the project, thus making its 57-minute run time feel longer than it should. Loyal Bros 2 could’ve used a little more brotherhood.
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