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  • Genre:


  • Label:

    300 Entertainment

  • Reviewed:

    December 15, 2017

Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley and Chicago drill alum Lil Durk team up for a promising mixtape that showcases their considerable chemistry.

Imagine how hard it must be to get a word in edgewise against Tee Grizzley. On his formidable 2017 debut My Moment, the surging Detroit rapper came across as the loudest, most opinionated guy at the Thanksgiving table, the uncle you know you shouldn’t get started on the prison-industrial complex, but whose rants are so passionate, so colorful in their conviction, that you can’t resist. That the album didn’t feature a single guest spot may have been as much a practical decision as a creative one: Grizzley’s rugged yammer consumes so much oxygen that it simply doesn’t leave much of an opening for anybody else.

Given how territorially he guarded his podium on My Moment, it came as a surprise that for his sophomore outing Grizzley opted to explore his collaborative side, partnering with a known quantity at that, Chicago drill alum Lil Durk. It’s a symbiotic alliance: Lil Durk gets to hitch his wagon to one of hip-hop’s most vital rising stars, and he’s given a shot at reclaiming some of his own buzz after a run of projects that, solid as they’ve been, all seemed to bleed together. Grizzley, in return, gets paired with one of the few rappers on the planet who can match his intensity. After a career spent alongside fierce personalities—Keef, Herbo, Bibby, Louie, Reese—Durk has a long record of coaxing top performances out of his sparring partners.

None of that is meant to imply that Bloodas is just a marriage of convenience, or some cynical attempt from two regional rappers to consolidate their market share. It seems to exists for the sole reason that these rappers have such ridiculous chemistry, and it would be criminal if they didn’t take advantage of it. “Bro show me love like we grew up together,” Grizzley wrote on an Instagram post of the two palling around, and despite the Great Lake separating them you could be forgiven for mistaking them for old childhood friends.

Even without the shared upbringing, the two have plenty in common. Each came up amid tragedy, in neighborhoods marred by violence, and neither apologize for the ways that it shaped, and in some cases soured, their worldview. “I’m from the city of Hoover/Bump and slide, we was robbin’ the jeweler/I was in school but shit had made me a shooter,” Durk raps on “WhatYo City Like.” That song begins as a barstool debate over whose city is rougher—both make compelling cases, rapping in furious four-bar blasts that pick up on the threads of the other’s last verse—but ends with extended hands and congenial offers from each to visit anytime.

The tape is never better than when it invites its principals to riff on the same idea. On “3rd Person” they take turns rapping from the perspective of judgmental outsiders. Grizzley assumes the role of the relatives who never bothered to so much as write him a letter while he was in prison, mocking their grievances that he no longer gives them the time of day. He doesn’t disguise what an open wound their abandonment is. Durk, meanwhile, touches on his own insecurity, voicing the casual listeners who gave up on him a few years back: “He tryna rap like Meek/Why he sing like he Future?/He should’ve signed with Keef/He probably be like Future.”

Rappers turn out so much music so fast these days that these kinds of collaborative efforts tend to fade from memory fast. In an age when rappers can paste entire projects together without ever entering the same room, though, Bloodas radiates a real sense of shared creation, suggesting Grizzley and Durk’s pairing has the potential to become something more career defining than just a pit stop. These two don’t just complement each other. They push each other, prodding and coaxing each other to one-up the last verse, which more often than not they do. Bloodas is the work of two elites who admire each other’s craft, but mostly who just get a kick out of each other’s company.