Lute - West 1996, Pt. 2

Lute's West 1996 Pt. 2

West 1996 Pt. 2
Sweet Iced Tea
On his solo debut Charlotte newcomer leaves us with something gritty honest and quintessentially Southern
- Mary Dillard

On his first solo effort, Charlotte, N.C. rapper Lute takes listeners on a ride through the Queen City’s west side. In the process he gives a front row seat to his struggle, delivering sharp rhymes about southern, urban life with tones and vibrato reminiscent of Isaiah Rashad and his “Dreamville” label boss. Even if he isn’t quite in their league, Lute’s West 1996 Pt. 2 is far from disappointing.

Specifically, West 1996 Pt. 2 details Lute’s struggle to provide for his family while simultaneously trying to avoid the pitfalls of the ghetto. An underdog story told over smooth, jazz-laden instrumentals, it’s uniquely southern and never loses touch with its working class roots. It’s Charlotte’s answer to Detroit’s “8 Mile” .

That being said, it’s fitting that the project opens with “Morning Shift,” an honest and direct assessment of the difficulties that come with chasing the rap game. The track tackles everything from the duplicitous nature of his so-called “supporters” to his conflicted feelings over having to leave his daughter in order to provide for her. “My daughter call like, ‘why you leave me so late?’ Ain't no road where daddy headed, so he paving a way,” he tells her reassuringly. The soulful chorus (one of many on the album) is a highlight. “I say shackles on my feet can’t hold me back.” Repeating six times, these words serve as an emphatic coda, telling the listener from the beginning that Lute is in for the long haul.

The struggle continues on the single “Still Slummin,” where Lute laments the circuitous route to success. He’s “still slummin' while I'm chasing life, two steps back just to get it right.” His humble roots are never far away as he opens the song with “Took off my work badge, realize I’m back in the hood.” The album indeed opened on a high note and doesn’t miss a beat on this track. With instrumentation that offers a comforting solitude of sorts and lyrics delivered with the kind of skill and heart that is sure to connect with anyone trying to better themselves.

Next up, we have my personal favorite “Home” featuring fellow Charlotte native Elevator Jay. The “comforting solitude” is once again present in the form of a crisp snare drum and echoing trumpet. Lyrically, the song is about relieving stress in a world so inundated with it. ”See, I got goals, and as long as I got goals to chase I could give two fucks what take place place today.” Lute christens the track with his impactful flow and Elevator Jay assists with a swaggering verse that’s dripping with unique southern style. These motifs are never abandoned on *West 1996 Pt. 2* and the results pay dividends. With highlights like “Ford’s Prayer,” “Premonition” and the Outkast tribute “Git Up” (“I’m just trying to stack a dollar, fuck a Donald Trump” is one of my favorite lines”), this album is hard to ignore. Even at its worst, (the misplaced and off kilter “Birds and Bees”) *West 1996 Pt. 2* is still very enjoyable.

Overall, West 1996 Pt. 2 is an album with its ducks in a row. The songs are well structured and thematically consistent. The features fit nicely within the context of the album and they don’t overwhelm the principle artist. Lute has the potential to be a giant in rap, and his first solo project showcases a versatility and musicality that is just below that of his most respected peers. The good news for Lute: there is a plenty of time for growth. It’s a long journey to hip-hop superstardom, and West 1996 Pt. 2 is an auspicious start.