The deeper Hip Hop goes into the 2020s, the further lyrical miracle, “traditional” rappers become less of an influence on the up-and-comers. There is a massive school of new artists that only know rap with Auto-Tune, face tattoos, Amiri jeans and Balenciaga Triple S shoes. Take Louisville rapper 2KBaby for example, who was born in 2000 and is yet to turn 23. Ten years ago when he was at his most impressionable age, artists like Chief Keef, G Herbo, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert were at the height of their powers and an obvious influence for young musical minds. So it’s no wonder that the aforementioned 2KBaby is trying his best to replicate the melody-driven rap he came up with and his new project Scared 2 Love is another example of that abandonment of traditional “bars” and song structure, but without the innovation of new school artists such as Yeat, Destroy Lonely and Cochise.

2KBaby generated decently big buzz at the turn of the decade with his viral track “Old Streets”; a song more sung than rapped but damn catchy thanks to soft strings, snappy hi-hats and barely two-minute runtime. Fast forward to 2023 and he’s still making the exact same type of songs except now instead of short snippet-style tracks, he’s stretching this formula far too thin with longer run times and even less coherent concepts.

Opening track “Angel “ is messy and close to inaudible. Now, that’s not a knock to plugg rap which definitely serves a purpose in today’s Hip Hop landscape. But it’s three minutes long, basically just melodic moans and the beat sounds like dial-up Internet from the late 90s. Not a great start.

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Forward to “Love Me Now” featuring charlieonnafriday which isn’t a bad song at all, in fact, it has the most replay value on the entire project. There’s some obvious Post Malone-ing on the chorus but nevertheless 2K dishes some traditionally strong vocal chops about having to flex the expensive chip on his shoulder thanks to haters thinking he was “just another fellow.” He also catches some lightning in a bottle on the chorus for “Rain.” Harto Beats puts together a perfect piano loop for 2K to get off some believably blissful belts: “The change gon’ come/And when it rain on you, don’t let it stain on you/And know that rain gon’ come/Put all the blame on you, soon as the pain on you.” Even the next track “Mood Swings” is fun, vibrant and 2K catches a playful pocket over KyleYouMadeThat’s pulsating beat.
From there, though, the album starts to glue together into an onslaught of melodic mashups and moans. It’s almost as if the remaining eight tracks have been stitched together to create one 15 minute song with a few beat switches. From “IDKY” all the way through “Stand Love”, 2K seems to be going through the melodic motions. For a straight ten minutes it’s easy to completely check out and have your mind wander away from the music. It would make good NBA2K loading screen music. Then there’s “Gone” which is a complete mismatch from beat to bars and everything in between.

Closing track “Overdue” is a light at the end of the Auto-Tuned tunnel. The vocals and more audible bars are more specific and listeners can hear the emotion in his voice, as if he’s whispering them in your ear. “When I speak up, she make a n***a just think he crazy” is sung with the same cadence like a friend telling you candidly about his tumultuous relationship. Where were these thoughtful lyrics in the middle of the project? Perhaps 2K doesn’t have enough life experience or variety of experiences to pull from but regardless, Scared 2 Love would flow way better had it been 3-5 songs max.

Had this project been released by anyone else, it would have been immediately thrown into the pile of new music that fails to make it past the ‘new releases playlist’ phase. But since 2KBaby has some serious potential to be at the very least a go-to chorus crooner for this new generation, Scared 2 Love found a way to matter for a week. There’s more than enough room in Hip Hop for a rap-focused crooner that can translate real emotion over a multitude of BPMs and 2KBaby simply needs to find his place within it.