Monday, December 3, 2018

Starlito "Mental Warfare"

Starlito was fresh off the DJ Burn One collaboration Renaissance Gangster when he released Mental Warfare. Where the former was a country rap tune classic meant for riding and smoking in the haze of a late southern summer, the later was ‘Lito delivering a masterpiece of modern conceptual rap - taking the listener through the mind of a hustler and the psychological toll a life in the trap can take. The album is separated by individual moments of captured intimacy with ‘Lito. Speaking genuinely and from the heart he sheds light on the moves he has made in the past and how he is navigating life at the time. It paint’s a positive picture of mental clarity, but not without plenty of missteps and questionable choices rooted in loyalty and a devotion to a strict inner code not to be tampered with regardless the test.

“Hope For Love” opens the album as strong letter to whoever might be listening. Throughout his career Starlito has delivered biographical tales with ease. This is no different and sets the stage for an excellent portrayal of a mind ready to split under the pressure. This first suite of tracks is closed out with an unsung Sonny Digital classic, with Starlito showing off his commercial viability on “W.T.F.” Don’t sleep on this jam, it should be on every party playlist for the rest of time.
 

 From here on out the album takes a dark turn. “Live From The Kitchen” is just that, a snarling track oozing the dirt and grime present when you are in the trap house. Starlito has never pretended to be anything other than a young, business minded individual who know how to work with words even better than he does a scale. “Back With the Shit” & “The Ville” keep the energy level turnt and continue with the musings about making boss moves in the streets while also making room to consider his mental health and the damage he has inflicted upon himself on his journey through the drug game. The album transitions once more bringing in DJ Burn One and his 5 Points Music team (Go Ricky! Go! & Walt Live) to lay down the perfect country rap tune in “L.E.A.N.” driven by just the right groove Killa Kyleon, Young Dolph & Starlito all revel in some sordid tales about sipping and fucking. “Substitute” keeps the Burn One vibe rolling featuring a muted drum track and Ricky’s guitar crying in just the right key in the background - all of this just to give ‘Lito the space he needs to come clean and be honest with his main lover. Starlito regularly has demonstrated his affinity for women, and yet he also is consistent in making tracks analyzing the struggle he endures internally as to why he can’t remain faithful. I wonder if he knew this track would spur and entire sub category in his cannon years later?
 
Mental Warfare is six and a half years old. I’m a self professed Starlito stan and will always be going back to his music. However, while I was hip to ‘Lito and the release of this when it dropped, I can’t say that I had ever really given it it’s due like I have later albums of his. Who knows why I overlooked it at the time. Part of me suspects that I found it a little too trap, I took the Burn One jams and overlooked the rest. What a disservice I was doing myself. And if you haven’t heard this album you are doing the same to yourself. I’ve come to terms with the fact that 'Lito will never garner the attention or appreciation I think he deserves and that is ok. His catalog is here and not going anywhere. I’m always gonna be preaching the gospel and today I’m happy to have taken the time to analyze one I hadn’t considered. It’s complex and vast in it’s concepts. But it’s quintessential trap and should be in any conversation about the genre.

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