Polo G – The GOAT (Album Review)
A week ago, Polo G featured alongside Lil Baby on Lil Durk’s “3 Headed Goat,” a standout track from Durk’s new album. The title made me imagine some sort of polycephalic goat with vague Durk, Baby, and G facial features–a reverse baphomet of sorts–an image I won’t soon forget. In fact, last month, an actual two-headed goat was born on a farm in Wisconsin and they missed an opportunity to name it Rich Gang: Tha Tour Vol.1, after the Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan collaboration from 2014. I digress; the song is really good. Durk and Baby definitely show up but Polo G, with the last verse, brings an energy and a focus that the other two just don’t have right now. It’s a zone that perhaps nobody else is in at the moment.
This week, Polo G released his album, The GOAT, making it clear that he is not only concerned with claiming to be the GOAT, but moreso concerned with becoming synonymous with the term. On the feature from last week, he didn’t shy away from big claims like, “I should slap you for sayin’ he hot as me, I don’t know who could fuck with me honestly, they know I’m the man, so they watchin’ me, different color bands like Monopoly.” But on his own album, his title is about as boastful as he gets. Through 16 tracks, he barely even takes a moment to brag. On “Flex,” he tries and succeeds in the hook but in his verse he gets a Dolce & Gabbana namedrop out of the way and then proceeds to rap about violence in his neighborhood. If Polo G really is the GOAT, then it’s not because he said so, it’s because he said nothing at all- just simply brought up the idea.
This album is 47 minutes of G working through childhood trauma and processing the things from his past that made him into who he is today. It’s a prolonged psychotherapy session interspersed with vivid flashbacks and modern-day beams of luxury like an early Sopranos episode.
In general, it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from G. This balance–one that every good storyteller seems to understand–is one that was present in his debut album from last year, Die A Legend. He was 20 when it came out, 20 when it hit #1 on Billboard, and 20 when it went gold. It was a big year for Polo G and there was a lot of pressure to follow up. So he stuck to his formula. And look, as much as I’d like to see Polo G evolve into some kind of unpredictable enigmatic rapper, I’m perfectly fine with playing another contemplative, 808-under-piano-riff, meditation on the psychological effects of street life all summer. If I had Mustard, Hit Boy, Mike Will, Tay Keith, and Murda Beatz sending me instrumentals that fit my pocket, I too, would happily stay in that pocket and stuff 16 songs on my sophomore album.
Beyond the surface, G seems more comfortable directly addressing his mental health and that of those around him. In the second verse of “Relentless,” G opens up about the extent of his depression and his conscious effort towards activism, making it clear that this is more than just rapping about trapping, and that this is just as much “Conscious Rap” as a Mos Def or Lupe Fiasco album:
“Call up the plug just to help me with my challenges
Keep tryna fight off all this depression that I’m battling
Stressin’ while I’m dreamin’, I keep getting sleep paralysis
G.O.A.T.-ed like I’m Pac, go from a gangster to an activist”
Then in the second verse of “I Know,” he tells a story in the third person about an unnamed young man that felt unhappy and estranged at home but found purpose on the block. Even going as far as to mention being molested by an aunt as a baby boy- continuing on the theme of being held hostage by past trauma until the work is done to process it. G also seems to be more sure-footed when talking about racial tension and the unjust judicial system. He opens the first verse of “Relentless” with,
“White folks starin’ like I don’t belong.
What about them nights I had to suffer?
Like they tryna make me feel insecure about my color.”
My favorite track on the album is “Wishing For a Hero,” track 16- the closer. It samples the same song as 2Pac’s Changes and acts as a sort of interpolation of the classic rap record. Like Pac did, G fires off about police brutality, governmental creation and grooming of ghettos, the devil and prayer, PTSD, and more. It’s truly the verse of the year so far. I’m not even going to quote from it because it deserves a full listen. At the end of the verse, BJ the Chicago Kid sings the very familiar hook from the posthumous Pac single. It’s an incredible way to end an album.
Just 5 months into his 21st year, Polo G is part of a generation of artists that are still finding their footing. A lot of his peers sound like each other and their predecessors, and a lot of them are concerned with attaching to a trend. Polo G stands on solid ground. After two albums, it’s clear where his head’s at and where he intends to go. The sum of his flexing is largely outweighed by real efforts to depict trauma, overcome it, and call for activism. After all, on the aforementioned track 12 when he says, “G.O.A.T.-ed like I’m Pac, go from a gangster to an activist.” he sums up a lot of the topics on the album in one bar, and teases the concept of a more politically involved Polo G. In fact, already his message is transcending the music. Last year, he started an AAU basketball team in the city, creating a place for kids to stay out of trouble and be exposed to other paths of success. With such clear, progressive intentions at his age, the most exciting thing about the future of Polo G may not even be what happens in the studio, but rather what he does outside of it.
Standout Tracks: “Flex,” “I Know,” “Relentless,” “DND,” “Trials & Tribulations,” & “Wishing For a Hero”
Check out “The Government Says My Job is Not Essential, But These Songs Definitely Are” here!
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