“Trust me, if I don’t fuck with you, I keep it consistent”
Lute is a signee of J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, which like most vanity labels has a major league partner in Interscope Records. That’s not a bad thing. Vanity labels get to flex and try things their bigger name partners don’t. Vanity labels get to showcase up and coming rappers their bigger name partners won’t. The rapper born Luther Nicholson might not have gotten his break were it not for his friendship with Cole, but he’s far from being someone with no talent who just got put on out of nepotism. In fact what I consistently noticed throughout “Gold Mouf” is a polished rapper with incredible confidence and humility all in the same package.
“Only person that I’m up against is me
I’m hella humble, don’t mistake that shit as weak
Show my daughter if she fall it’s cool, just get back on your feet
I’m here to give you all these tools and then my life’ll be complete”
I don’t want to oversell how refreshing a song like “Life” is, but considering the hundreds of albums that demand my attention year after year, no one said boo about “Gold Mouf” to me and I’m sitting here wondering why. It’s easy to say J. Cole wouldn’t put on anybody whack and leave it at that but made rappers put whack ones on all the time and promote them like they’re God’s gift to rap. Meanwhile I’m blown away by the quiet thoughtfulness of the Diego Ave and Swish produced “Be Okay” where he gets real about the hardships we all deal with on a daily basis. “I found peace within/focus on myself but still be checkin in/hard to call on certain friends, walls be closing in… life’s a bitch, I understand.” Damn.
This is not an “either/or” equation. I’m not saying rap can only be either thoughtful and introspective or be boisterous and extroverted. What I’m saying is that the former is more rare than the latter, because everybody likes to hear about success and aspire to it themselves. It can be a pleasant escape from reality, while real sentiments like “On a scale of 1 to 10, anxiety be nine” on “Eye to Eye” featuring Cozz just don’t fit into the narrative of fast life and fast cars, iced out watches and big booty bitches. “Trying to meditate more and start drinking less.”
“Gold Mouf” is just one pleasant surprise after another. From ROMderful giving us the modern day 9th Wonder vibes on “Amen” with Little Brother, to the thumping Marco Polo “Flossin'” featuring Westside Boogie (told you being thoughtful and flashy don’t have to be mutually exclusive), to the soulful “Ghetto Love” produced by and featuring Blakk Soul (along with Ari Lennox), it’s one good vibe after another whether you play the album sequentially or let random play skip to a track. Lute doesn’t disappoint.
My colleagues at RR recently had a discussion about how 2021 had been an “off year” for rap, without any albums that were really outstanding or worthy of acclaim. I’m happy to say that Mr. Nicholson is here to change that narrative for the better, and I’m disappointed to say that the musical landscape has become so crowded that an album like “Gold Mouf” can wind up almost completely overlooked. Hopefully that’s about to change.