Album Review: Grip – 5 & a F*** You

[Stray Society; 2022]

Grip is here to bite your fucking head off. The Atlanta rapper travels outside of the obvious (and seemingly descending, per a RICO case) circles of Young Thug and Gunna, instead gravitating towards the alternative scenes co-governed by the likes of Kenny Mason and Marco Plus. Somehow, despite this, he found himself signed by one of the biggest rappers of all time, joining forces with Shady Records for last year’s I Died for This!?, an already underrated major label debut.

He’s returned, hardly a year later, with the far more aggressive and carefree 5 & a F*** You. If the title doesn’t make it obvious right off the bat, as I’ve said, this is a rapper simply coming for your head.

Grip has plenty of reason to be in a mood: having dropped what’s essentially an unnoticed classic with 2019’s Snubnose and signing with damn Eminem, he’s still waiting on his true international exposure. Hence, plenty of moments on his latest release bristle with unspent energy and earned irritation.

From the opening, horror-like notes of “Cook Up”, Grip is coming for every aspect of the game, essentially opening with the lines, “N***as physique to weak to compete with the elites do some push-ups / Still can’t spar with the god / Try ya hardest to bob / Yall Subpar bar for bar I hardy har har at ya squad.” Follow up “‘94 Plow” is just as, if not more, aggressive, with AHYES filling in for a Busta Rhymes-like hook while Grip wreaks havoc anywhere and everywhere that isn’t his own scene. It’s an impressive display of storytelling and pure chest-thumping, all at once.

Still, the project might reach its sardonic peak with “The F Word”. Far more than simply an excuse to yell the titular word (despite the infectious nature of the hook), it finds Grip digging into every aspect of his life that leave him without any reason to care for what’s going on around him: “Don’t ask me if I like what such and such did on a beat / My homie died the other week, n***a, do you really think I give a -”.

The mixtape also finds righteous energy in “Static”, which finds Grip linking up with Marco Plus for a track separated into miniature verses separated by, well, static. Both MCs tear into the track like it’s a rare steak, wreaking destruction across a song that feels more like an extended threat than anything.

None of this is to say Grip doesn’t find time for his already storied storytelling. “Value Mall” slows things down for a bit of local flavor, with a soulful beat that backs a refreshing reversal of hip-hop’s constant trope of copping the most expensive possible items, with Grip illustrating, “if you on a budget, this is how you ball / You can get it all at the Value Mall.”

Still, it’s ultimately back to business, with Grip and ally Tate228 spinning a sinister, yet human and sad, yarn on “Cory N’ Mel”, another display of the show’s star at his storytelling best.

“Many Thanks” takes the place of a typical shout outs section of an album and extends it into an entire proper song, revealing the story behind the project itself: that he’d originally intended to record an EP in a week, but instead ended up extending the project to mixtape length, letting it run its proper course. You can feel the emotion in his voice when he muses, “The day Em spit me my lyrics, I knew I really made it / To have him and Royce on my album, that shit feel amazin’/ ‘Cause they giants in my eyes, residin’ where I aim to be / Remember buyin’ they CD and now they give me game for free.” Wherever he’s headed, the future looks bright.