Paper Route Gangstaz

Hood Headlinaz Vol. 2: Still Headlinin' Mixtape

(Self-released; 2010)

By Colin McGowan | 20 August 2010

Paper Route Gangstaz aren’t what one might consider “long-form artists.” A decent chunk of their latest mixtape, which clocks in at an exhausting 69 minutes, is considerably toothless: generic hustling anthems, uninspired marijuana tributes, and casual misogyny. This minutiae is just something weary rap nerds wade through on the regular, especially when there’s a raging torrent of mixtape rappers streaming out of the South these days, many of them with a veritable banger or two in their back pocket. In order to mine those trunk-rattlers, it’s necessary to withstand a mountain of microwaved trap-hop (I see you, Waka Flocka).

The Paper Route Gangstaz have a pedigree at this point, having released an incredible collaboration with Diplo a couple years ago, but even that tracklist was severely front-loaded, the last half-hour fizzling out flaccidly where the first 40 minutes roared. So yeah, there are some duds; “Sometimes I Ask Myself” is as insipid as its title implies. This seems to be because the PRGz modus operandi is to set fire to a pile of tree, throw back a roll or two, and allow the drugs to govern their artistic output. This is the sound of the effects of dopamine either percolating or receding, and sometimes it sounds really stupid.

But also: it often sounds fantastic. “Keyshia Cole” is the masterpiece here, all creeping slow-motion steez and non-sequiturs. The moment at which the first verse concludes, “The inside of my ride smell like Keyshia Cole and the color purple,” giving way to the chopped-and-screwed hook, hits like a glorious inhale. The track, in addition to being the best thing on the tape, reveals the blueprint of a PRGz banger. Like many (let’s admit it) faceless rappers coming out of Huntsville, AL, these MCs lean heavily on their immense flows, adroit Southern drawls, and infectious charisma carrying their rhymes. Most of the bars on “Keyshia Cole” are just exceptionally delivered chain-jingling (“I’m the flyest that’s flown / Coogi Attire cologne / Armani Aqua Di Gio shootin’ my video [oh!]”). Throw this impressive ping-ponging of syllables over a smoldering production and it’s ready to reverberate club walls and move asses. Other standouts like “Guap” and “I’m Famous” follow the same formula. It’s this fact that makes the PRGz music somewhat difficult to parse, since it succeeds or fails on a simple premise.

One aspect of the PRGz’s music that’s particularly notable is that, while Headlinaz 2 doesn’t function as a cohesive document, it is nothing if not thematically consistent. So thoroughly do Jhi-Ali, Mata, Dawgy Baggz, and friends burrow into their subject matter that one wonders if they possess doctorates in their respective fields. There is a point on one of Gucci Mane’s more recent mixtapes where he is rapping over a prison phone, and, rather than addressing his current plight (incarceration), he is still rapping about being Gucci Mane. He spits about the ice on his wrist that is definitely not on his wrist because you cannot wear diamond jewelry in the clink. The PRGz explore the topics of flyness, the grind, and how fucking high they are with the same veracity with which Gucci Mane tackles Being Gucci Mane. As has been noted, this single-mindedness manifests itself at various levels of heat, like a yawning rainbow of hood shit. And it ends, as it begins, with three Bama natives flaunting their gold.