Kap G Chases a Radio Rap Future With Atlanta Roots on ‘SupaJefe’

Read more

On the album artwork of his latest project SupaJefe, a flossy Kap G mean mugs in full charro garb, capturing the dichotomy of much of his life and career. By all accounts, George Ramirez is a talented rapper from Atlanta who draws from the streets of College Park in the same way that Migos does from Gwinnett County or Future from Zone 6; Kap’s thick Southern drawl and trap sensibilities are embedded in his identity as an artist. But as evidenced by the comments section under his videos, the young rapper’s Mexican heritage remains a conspicuous part of his artistry. For many young Latinos, it’s a point of pride to have a musician who looks like them making trap. To others, it’s a surprise to see a Chicano attached to the voice they hear rapping about turning up and stealing girlfriends on the radio.

SupaJefe works with the multiplicity of Kap’s identity, but arguably less so than previous releases. Above all, it remains an Atlanta rap album with an ambitious sphere of influence. SupaJefe packs superstar collaborations and obvious singles, to be sure, but the tone and musical direction makes it feel more like a tour through Kap’s neighborhood than a trip across the seven seas. However, it’s clear that Kap G and his team are looking for their pop moment – a Chris Brown feature essentially screams “radio rotation, please” at this point, despite the hitmaker’s well-known history of violence against women. Given the major label backing and the coveted co-sign from Brown, Kap has managed to stay true to the streets of his neighborhood while keeping an eye on conquering the charts.

The album’s first track, “CEO,” finds Kap crooning about his entrepreneurial spirit and the work ethic required to secure both a record deal and a film role right out the gate. “Swear they only see the shine/But they don’t ever see the grind/Before these Louis V designs/I was slingin’ rhymes like they lines” joins the storied archive of metaphors comparing bars and hooks to the bags of blow on the kitchen table. Pulling from the Travis Scott and Post Malone playbook of Top 40 rap, Kap G’s vocals on “CEO” are more sung than rapped. Kap G’s tribute to his city, his friends, and his future feels especially genuine and heartfelt when his homie (and relative newcomer) Kapfe jumps on the track.

Elsewhere, “I See You” and “Icha Gicha,” featuring Chris Brown and Pharrell respectively, seem destined to be the hits that earn Kap G radio play and break him into the mainstream. Kap excels on “Basic,” mincing no words as he outlays his deep disdain for the swag-deficient women of his world. The dembow riddim of “Ay Yi Yi” is a clear attempt to take advantage of pop’s resurgent obsession with dancehall, most obviously crystallized by Drake and Rihanna. It’s a calculated risk that Kap G handles with ease, opening a new lane for his music without compromising his content or moving too far out of his personal paradigm.

Perhaps most importantly, SupaJefe finds Ramirez charting a path to stardom without relying on cholo flows or kitschy payasadas, avoiding the commodification of his own identity – something many aspiring Latino rappers are forced to embrace. Kap benefits from calling the city that has become hip-hop’s beating heart his home, and he speaks organically to a demographic of young, bicultural Chicanos. If there was a master plan, one that involves towing the line between the block and the Billboard charts, for the most part, SupaJefe finds Kap G hitting his mark – using pop formulas and executing them competently, though more successfully on some songs than others.

SupaJefe is a tidy and well-crafted work, and an ambitious effort after years of grinding on the mixtape circuit. Like a Mexican, Kap’s 2014 tape, was street and gritty, sprinkled with references to his heritage and a slew of heavyweight collaborations that almost felt out of place on a newcomer’s mixtape. El Southside was still made for the streets, but worked out the kinks from his earlier works and featured stronger flows and clear underground hits with considerable radio appeal. With SupaJefe, Kap G has created an album that remains grounded in Atlanta’s dark underbelly while ostensibly reaching for pop stardom.