DD Osama has barely been rapping for more than a year, yet you’d never guess it solely based on the 16-year-old emcee’s resume. Since early 2022, the Harlem rapper’s rise to regional—and more recently, national—prominence has been meteoric, bolstered by A-list features, TikTok hits, and industry support. But this whirlwind of attention is clouded in misfortune.
Last summer, his brother and closest musical collaborator Ethan Reyes (better known as Notti Osama) was the victim of a fatal stabbing. The tragedy, fueled by a senseless and juvenile feud, quickly inspired a viral song and dance, Kyle Richh, TaTa, and Jenn Carter’s controversial, vicious, and immensely popular “Notti Bop.” The track’s dance, an imitation of the stabbing motion that took Reyes life at the young age of 14, reveals the ugliest side of drill boiling down the scene’s nihilism, the grim spectacle of social media, and popular culture’s tendency to exploit tragedy into a single, disturbing video.
With this notoriety came greater attention for DD Osama, who inked a deal with Alamo Records later that year. Following linkups with Coi Leray and Lil Mabu, he’s poised to become one of the city’s biggest stars—even with a dearth of released material. Here 2 Stay, Osama’s major label debut and first full-length project, seeks to flesh out his scant discography, yet doesn’t offer any songs substantive enough to make fans stray from his essential singles.
The new tape feels like anything but a triumphant milestone in his young career, or even an opportunity for listeners to know him better beyond the morbid headlines that loom over his body of work to date. Instead, it’s something more akin to a test screening. Alamo posits DD Osama as an avatar for the latest wave of New York drill over a sequence of ambitious genre crossovers, high-profile collaborations, and club rap floor-filler. With little more than a handful of singles and YouTube videos under his belt up to this point, he lacks the experience and dexterity to pull off such a comprehensive effort.
Despite these experiments with new sounds, Osama still feels the most at home on the traditional NY drill production that supported his earliest tracks. On his breakthrough single “40s N 9s,” which dropped last summer and is included in Here 2 Stay’s tracklist, Osama’s vocals are still noticeably boyish as he growls and ad-libs his way through a chintzy, sample-laden beat. It’s rough, but raw, serving as a worthy primer to his sound.
Osama has a knack for bouncing spring-loaded triplet flows and percussive onomatopoeia off the edges of the pocket. His sheer enthusiasm makes the track slap harder than the sum of its parts, even if it’s a bit unnerving to listen to a high schooler aim lines like “Word to my O, I’ma up that pipeSevsideK, I’m smoking on rite” at his rivals. “What We Doin’” and “MIA” occupy a similar lane as the tape’s most listenable cuts, pairing minimalist production with a screaming delivery that wouldn’t feel out of place on a City Morgue record. Osama’s palpable and sincere anger cuts through these songs, though the presence of Lil Notti’s name and influence on their lyrics creates a bleak sense of cognitive dissonance.
Unfortunately, none of the attempts to explore an alternative sound on Here 2 Stay make a compelling case for Osama to carve out a different path just yet. Club track “Money Calls,” which features guest spots from Philly upstarts GE3Z and 2Rare, sounds more likely to clear the dancefloor than get the party jumping. The Autotune on its sing-songy chorus sounds like it’s been set to the wrong key, which clashes with the beat’s busy, PluggnB-inspired topline. Each verse arrives at a completely different volume and EQ setting, squashing any of the energy that builds in the latter half of the track.
Nearly five minutes long, “Show No Love” is essentially an unreleased Rylo Rodriguez song with a brief DD Osama verse wedged into the center. That’s not figurative language, either. Osama appears on little more than a quarter of its runtime, and an attentive listener can detect the exact spots where his bars were surgically spliced in. It’s more of a ploy for a few bonus streams than it is a real song.
The slipshod construction of the aforementioned “Show No Love” sums up the many ways that Here 2 Stay and its rollout undermine Osama’s own potential. Thrust into the spotlight under tragic circumstances, he’s barely had time to process the weight of his brother’s passing, much less develop as an artist and chart a path for the future. In little more than half an hour, the release attempts to portray the teenage artist as an R&B crooner, club rap party starter and drill rap kingpin, but the material has been rushed out and feels unfinished. The result — none of these personas feel convincing.
There’s too much ground to cover in too little time, and it’s difficult to get a sense of who Osama is within the fragmented release. Beneath Here 2 Stay’s unpolished exterior, there’s a charismatic drill MC with an instantly-recognizable presence on the mic. However, it’s tough to appreciate his raw talent when the industry’s impatience to turn him into a lucrative star is so uncomfortably palpable.