Your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper’s favorite rapper AKA Key! has released his latest tape, SO EMOTIONAL. Key! has been a presence in the Atlanta rap scene for some time now, coming to prominence with verses on two of 2014’s biggest viral rap hits Wrist and Bitch You Guessed It. Key! kept with consistent output though he seemed to shy away from projects that’d take him to the next level, which lead to a seemingly annual “Why hasn’t Key! blown up yet?” column getting written by someone. In the 2014 Complex piece Key! said “I don’t give a fuck about being New Atlanta. I’ve been in every New Atlanta class since they started saying that,” and it’s remarkable how true that continues to be half a decade later. However, last year he seemed to take that leap with his Kenny Beats assisted project 777, one of last year’s best rap albums, and SO EMOTIONAL continues that upward trajectory.
SO EMOTIONAL is a quick featureless tape at eight songs and nineteen minutes where Key! spends the majority of his time in a semi auto-tuned rap/sing croon. Only one song goes over three minutes and just about all of them sound like they could find their way into your summer mix, whether they be good in the car or club bangers. Kenny Beats and Oogie Mane of Working On Dying handled the majority of the production on this tape and continue the incredible years both are having. One of the few tracks not produced by one of the two is the TrapMoneyBenny produced WHY. The track has a tropical vibe without being at all campy that has Key! hitting the heights of his vocal register. While he is really just doing the 03 Greedo/Trippie Redd styled rap singing that has spread through SoundCloud like the plague, KEY! really goes for it in a way that sounds like he’s going for Beyonce more than Trippie, or should I say Keyonce. As Key! wails out to a scorned lover “why why why why” all I can think is that there is no reason this song wouldn’t work on pop radio, and if I was Key! I might have shopped this around as a reference track. You put Rihanna on the hook of this and have any rapper you want doing a verse or two and it’s the biggest song in America. I could see the whywhywhywhy getting picked up as a Triller or TikTok meme and having the song blow up from there. We then move into Oogie Mane helmed album single MIAMI TOO MUCH, which Grandma Sophia’s Cookies has already called the summer’s petty anthem. The tape is aptly named, and as I listen to song after song of Key! lamenting a lost lover I can’t help but imagine her listening to him croon out “Bought her ass, now I can’t keep up with her ass” as he does on YES OR NO. Like it’d honestly have to feel pretty nice to have inspired such good music. Imagine treating a guy like garbage and then have him turn around and record seven bangers about how bad it made him feel? If I was her I’d almost feel justified.
There is only one song on the tape with hope for love, as KEY! sings on NATURALLY about how his girl is still fine with her make up off. Like WHY the track has a tropical bounce to it that feels perfect for the summertime without having the stink of tropical house on it. It’s remarkable how singular the sound is within the crowded rap landscape. KEY! is singing just a little bit more seriously than his contemporaries and his songs sound twice as polished as a result. In a world of two minute songs that sound like snippets, it’s remarkable how fully formed these two minute songs are. NATURALLY doesn’t waste a second fitting in two choruses and two verses into two minutes, fine tuning the jam for the streaming economy without having to loose out on substance.
Every time I listen to a full KEY! project I cannot understand why he isn’t a more popular artist. He makes unique music that is still fully accessible to a mass market. This tape in particular is chocked full of songs that I could see being club bangers and 2k soundtrack favorites, and hopefully will be the vehicle that helps take KEY! up a level. I pray that Alphonse Pierre gets this a 8.0+ p4k review so that some more ears can hear this man and this project.