(Photo: Epic Records)
In the mile-a-minute world of blog buzz that drives the convo in hip hop nowadays, crowning the "next big thing" is paramount. And in 2012, the hype machine's lead story was, no doubt, the emergence of Chicago's long-ignored rap scene. In the wake of the massive success of Chief Keef, who rode a wave of Web-fueled noise to a deal with Interscope and a song with Kanye West, labels descended on the Windy City like hungry sharks. And King Louie, already a veteran of the city's mixtape scene with hits like "I'm Arrogant," was perhaps the biggest fish of all, signing a deal with Epic. With all eyes on him — his new employers' in particular — the pressure is on for King Louie to justify the hype with his new mixtape, Showtime, which dropped earlier this week.
And for the most part, King Louie proves he's worthy of his new major-label throne. It's an ambitious project, stuffed with a whopping 22 songs, production from Lex Luger and "I Don't Like" producer Young Chop and verses from Chi's other newly crowned golden children (Chief Keef, Lil Durk, YP). King Louis spins out cocksure, middle-finger trap anthems with ease on "Showtime," "Money Team," "Chiraq Playaz" and elsewhere. There's that similar dread-shaking, Windy City aggression of Keef's best, but Louie delivers it with the pimp-hand humor and quirky wit he displayed on past favorites like "The Val Venis Song." Meanwhile, catchier, more upbeat numbers such as "Pack So Loud" and "Want It All" show L has a serious ear for hooks that will help him be more than a corner favorite.
But Showtime also makes L's weaknesses apparent. From the dog-eared subject matter — haters, hustling, hundreds, women — to the production, which faithfully abides by the Lex Luger formula, the project definitely starts to drag (with so many tracks, it would be hard for it not to). And the Future-esque Auto-Tune-heavy style Louie reveals on the second half will hopefully be kept far away from his major-label debut, Dope & Shrimp.
Still, with Showtime's lineup of radio-ready songs and his undeniable charisma, don’t be surprised if it's King Louie, rather than the less-polished, less-proven Keef, who leads Chicago's nascent rap circle to the Promised Land.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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