Baton Rouge, Louisiana rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again took to the Granada Theater stage in Lawrence, KS last night and blazed through a set full of rap bangers and street-driven hip-hop narratives.
NBA YoungBoy electrified the crowded venue full of fans with his fiery bars and infectious beats. His songs inflict a sense of urgency with the listener, while still resonating with the streets that raised him and remaining catchy. As he performed in front of a raucous crowd of fans, his words hit like haymakers on top of cantankerous, Southern-style, syrupy beats.
The NBA YoungBoy story is a fascinating, and unfortunately, all too familiar one. His life has been littered with violence and crime. In 9th grade, Kentrell Gaulden dropped out of school and took to a life of crime. Soon after, he was booked for robbery. He began gaining traction in the rap game with his debut mixtape, 38 Baby, but his ascension to fame also coincided with a new charge- this time for attempted first-degree murder. Gaulden eventually pleaded down to aggravated assault with a firearm, but did not avoid jail time. In turn, he found a chance to rehabilitate himself.
It was during his stint in jail that he truly came to light about his career and his long term goals. As soon as he was released, he unveiled “Untouchable,” one of his most triumphant songs about reinvention and resilience. The song traces back to the mistakes that he’s made, and the vow to not let these mistakes make you: “Gotta maintain, stay on my grind no I can’t be no fool / Naw I can’t slip nor I can’t fumble, gotta stick and move”
YoungBoy’s newest release, AI YoungBoy, reflects on the time he spent in jail, the progression of his life moving forward and his gritty life trying to stay alive on the Louisana streets. It’s an illuminating view on a young rapper, who is battling with his inner demons and the struggle to make it through this life unscathed by violence.
For how grisly YoungBoy’s life has been, his live show is a celebration of the man he is today and how far he’s come from the jail cell and the gutter. YoungBoy raps with a confidence unmatched for a 17-year-old. His voice, calm yet icy, is saturated with the pressure of a kid trapped under his circumstances. He bites down on syllables and spits out what he sees when he looks at his life, and that’s not always picturesque.
There are few rappers that can paint pictures like YoungBoy can, and his rap sheet validates every word that comes out his mouth. While other rappers stress the importance of cars and jewelry, YoungBoy preaches loyalty, durability and overcoming the crushing weight of life, especially that of a life with virtually no escape. For YoungBoy, that escape used to be crime, and that crime nearly claimed him. Now, he’s able to put those experiences, that pain, into vivid and bleak portraits of the life he’s lived.
For so many, rap is a just a genre, a playlist to put on to party. However, there are certain artists that are able to show that rap is more than that. It’s a way of life. It’s a gritty glimpse into the streets we don’t see for ourselves, and the statistics we read about on the news. If you really want to know what violence is, you can put on a YoungBoy song and feel it for yourself. This is an artist who doesn’t just make rap music, he makes life music.