Five years ago, shortly after signing with Young Dolph’s label Paper Route Empire, Key Glock released the mixtape “Glockoma.” Half a decade later he’s back with an official studio album as a sequel. For the most part I’ve enjoyed his work, even if I’ve lamented him promoting the same lifestyle that caused haters to gun down his mentor. The problems that plague the Memphis area aren’t unique though — economic inequality is widespread in the United States and the places hurting the most aren’t doing so by accident. This is a topic too broad for a review of “Glockoma 2” but suffice it to say that blaming Key Glock for wanting to floss his success ignores a society that encourages both the pursuit of wealth and a reckless disregard for human life.
“I’m the same young nigga that came from nothing”
While the first edition was strictly a release to put hype on his name, “Glockoma 2” comes well after Key Glock established himself as a rap star. That makes both the lyrics and video for “From Nothing” an interesting exercise in self-reflection. Glock is clearly enjoying the lifestyle his hard work afforded him, vacationing somewhere sunny with crystal blue water and a crystal studded watch on his arm. At the same time Markeyvius Cathey has a message directed as much at himself as his audience: “I’m straight off the block, I won’t change for nothin’/I made it out the hood, but I still be thuggin’.” He’s echoing the age old vow to “keep it real” and not abandon the people he grew up with or the fans who pushed him to these heights. The reason I say it’s directed at him as much as the listener is simple — fear. No, not fear of being gunned down the way Dolph was — fear of losing touch with the Memphis roots that inform his music. He doesn’t want the money or fame to change who he is. He states this even more directly on the aptly titled “Fuck Dat Shit.”
“I just want the money, fuck the fame and all that other shit.” That’s laudable but unrealistic. Glock has found himself in the same trap (no pun intended) as so many hard rappers. You often hear people in and outside of rap say “fake it until you make it,” but you never hear somebody say that once you make it, you have to amplify the facade. You can’t not drive a big car, flash a big chain, talk a big game and hold the most heat. Unfortunately there are times this leads Key Glock into repeating monotonous rap tropes. “Money Over Hoes” could be called timeless, but only because a rapper would have written it 30 years ago saying the exact same things while sipping gin & juice.
Let’s rewind a little bit and get back to commending Key Glock for what he does well. In a genre that shifted hard toward crooning and ‘tuning, Glock is undeniably old school in the best way — he spits straight bars. He’s not coating his vocals in a bunch of sugary syrup and mixing it with Sprite. Southern rappers are often unfairly chastised for their accents, but Glock is so well produced on “Glockoma 2” that I defy you to not understand every word even if he did have a long drawl. The truth is that he doesn’t. He sounds like Memphis but he also sounds like he could be from any hood anywhere in America. The King Ceeo produced “Dirt” exemplifies these traits.
I try to be optimistic about the future of young men like Key Glock, but saying everything is gonna be alright would be incredibly naive. I’ve heard it said that we are a nation born of violence and that it is woven into the very fabric of who we are, but even that is a mistake born of the lie that this country only came about because a bunch of colonists rose up against a tyrannical king. No the bloodshed woven into this country came long before that in the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of African people. It’s not “woke” to tell the truth about this — truth has no political allegiance other than to itself. The truth is I hope Key Glock will keep making music like “Glockoma 2” for decades to come, but the reality is the lifestyle may just swallow him whole.