“I’m a young legend, I give the streets hope/never got on no beat and said shit I ain’t know… nope!”
Who is the grim skeletal figure flipping bony double fingers at us while simultaneously proclaiming to give people hope? He’s Memphis rapper Big Scarr, one of the most recent signees to Gucci Mane’s label 1017 Records. His story is all too typical for an up-and-coming rapper. Raised by his grandmother until she passed away, his father took him in at 13 but by Scarr’s own account “he was in the streets.” Being one of nine siblings would make it hard to get a parent’s full focus under the best of circumstances, but Scarr still made the most of the situation until he wound up in a major car wreck at 16, giving him the facial injuries that inspired his rap name.
Honestly I’ve seen far worse facial lacerations than that. I’m not denying it was a traumatic experience for him (as apparently he was being shot at when the accident happened, one bullet going through his hip into his chest), but he either had a good plastic surgeon or the “scars” are as much mental as physical. He’s a handsome young man — far from the skeletal alter ego in the audio visualizers for “Big Grim Reaper.” What isn’t in question is that dealing with so much death and trauma so young forged his desire to succeed by any means necessary. Gucci Mane noticed the hustle and the talent and inked him to a deal, and it’s no surprise that the 1017 roster is all over this album (and its accompanying videos).
Being well connected has led to Big Scarr’s numbers going up quickly, but it’s not his label or his labelmates that catch my attention. When Scarr has the spotlight to himself on “Big Grim Reaper” you can hear the thought process that goes into his bars. “Uh, now they don’t want me to make it/but I can’t let them stop me, I know I’m destined for greatness” raps Scarr on “Pay Me,” showing off his inner drive along with his baritone vocals and South Memphis accent. I know it’s a cliche of rap writers to say “he sounds like X meets Y and made Z” and I’d prefer to avoid it, but I can’t help the thoughts percolating in my head right now — he reminds me A LOT of Freddie Gibbs. This is what Gibbs would sound like if he was from Memphis and not Gary.
When he’s got the right producers on “Big Grim Reaper” the talent shines through — Tay Keith on “From the Jump,” HitEmUpDayzo on “I Would Keep Goin,” Tahj Money on “Don’t Stop,” and so on. Having to devote a large portion of the beats to his labelmates (one third of the album) keeps him from taking full advantage of it. I’m sure they want Enchanting to be as big as Megan Thee Stallion, but I’m not hearing it on “IDL.” Gucci Mane seems to be sleepwalking his way through “In Colors” — his ice is colors, his life is colors, his GIRL is colors. Big Scarr blows him out of the water on the song.
There’s a lot to like about young Scarr, but there’s also room to improve. It’s impressive that he dropped a full length album with full length songs, but going that hard inserts a little bit of monotony in the topic matter. He can’t help but fall into the trap (pun intended) of making money, having sex with many women (with the usual misogyny towards them), and flashing all of his wealth. Every now and then something bubbles up from beneath the surface that shows me signs he can be MORE than that. Unfortunately he’s risen to prominence so fast that he could be a victim of his own success — forced to churn out repetitive material as fast as possible to placate the fans (and his label). I hope that time and new music will prove me wrong.