In Pursuit Of More LifeDecember 22, 2022
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On “Uh Uh,” the fifth song from Young Dolph’s first posthumous album, Paper Route Frank, he asserts, “You will never meet another real one like me.” Truer words, unfortunately, were never spoken.
Not to get all melodramatic, but the spooky prescience on display in that boastful bar stings all the more when contrasted with the wealth of material Dolph’s perhaps final testament offers. He wasn’t really a rapper who was obsessed with death — rather, he seems obsessed with life. For many, if not most trap rappers, the specter of death seems to haunt every bar, whether it’s a vaunted flex or hushed confession of wrongdoing. They keep all those choppers around for a reason.
It never really seemed like that with Dolph. Sure, he’d casually toss off the obligatory threats and warnings to opps or ruminate on the passing of loved ones. But throughout his catalog, he was always more concerned with living in the moment, taking it all in, and planning for the future. Practically the only time he mentions his own death here is on “Always,” and even then, he’s more concerned with the guestlist at his funeral and being casket clean than he is with the “how” and “why” he departed. It’s a gut check, nonetheless.
I’ve written before about how tricky the prospect of completing rappers’ posthumous albums can get, and I’m not interested in rehashing those arguments here. But Paper Route Frank represents perhaps the best-case scenario for such an endeavor. This sounds like Dolph, like something he’d make, from the beat choices down to the sequencing and the relatively sparse features list — which consists mainly of Paper Route Empire signees like Big Moochie Grape, Key Glock, and Big Snupe Bandz, and fellow trap elder statesmen 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane.
It’s easy to observe a thread of maudlin in albums finished after an artist’s death — especially sudden, violent ones like Dolph’s. Perhaps, because of Dolph’s relentlessly motivational persona, he just never recorded all that much melancholy material, or maybe the friends and family involved in this album’s creation just knew he wouldn’t have wanted such a project to get bogged down with introspection and paranoia. Still, it’s hard not to get choked up when he tag-teams with Key Glock for perhaps the last time on “That’s How” or passes the torch to his other PRE proteges on “Infatuated With Drugs.”
It’s the album closer, “Get Away,” that throws into sharpest contrast everything that Dolph really was as a rapper though. He declares that he’s “sick of rappin’,” but we all know that within months of announcing his retirement, he was right back in the studio, perhaps recording this very song. It’s when he juxtaposes being “sick of countin’ millions” with his aspiration to trade those “Ms” in for “Bs” that it becomes clear that all this moody reflection is just lyrical exercise. He’s not ready to stop just yet. He’s just ready to elevate his game and step up to a higher plateau of success.
The worst thing about closing Paper Route Frank on these contemplations is knowing he had all the tools and time in the world to see his ambition through — right up until he didn’t. The next level was right around the corner. Despite half a decade in the rap business — an eternity to many — he still had further to go. If he was stuck in a rut, it was only until the next flash of inspiration struck, energizing him for the next go-around.
Paper Route Frank is out now on Paper Route Empire.