Detroit might have lagged behind Chicago in regard to national exposure, but the Midwestern fixture is entering 2021 with a new life. Babyface Ray, a veteran Motor City MC just released Unfuckwitable, an unflinching EP that is made by and for the Detroit streets. Ray’s rapping style strays from the sounds of his Detroit peers: his rapping is less emotive than Rising Star 42 Dugg, doesn’t carry unfiltered belligerence like Sada Baby nor does it resemble the (slightly) more melodic bars of Tee Grizzley. Instead, Ray raps with such a nonchalance that you’ll wonder if he knows the microphone is even on. He casually lays down ice-cold bars with a shrug, talking shit over minimalistic production from the likes of Hit-Boy and Hoodrich Keem.
Unfuckwitable is more focused much of Ray’s previous releases. Arriving with seven songs at an 18-minute run time, the project is lean and free of filler, but the project struggles to push past regional boundaries as Ray occasionally relies too heavily on tired motifs of Drill and Sliding music. “Real N-ggas Don’t Rap” sets the album’s tone immediately and also boasts some of the project’s best production. Ray seems to be implying that he’s only rapping because he’s bored in quarantine and “$100k, it ain’t enough.” Ray’s conversational, stream-of-consciousness rapping style has been labeled as apathy, but it actually seems the “Paperwork Party” rapper is separating himself from his art, suggesting that rapping doesn’t define his being—he’s a baller with or without the bars. This too-cool-for-rap swagger works to varying degrees of success, but the asinine hook on “Allowance” is exemplary of a track that could have used some more work.
Released on Wavy Gang and EMPIRE records, Unfuckwitable includes features from Moneybagg Yo, Kash Doll and rising Kentucky-star EST Gee. There are no skips on the tape, but Ray stands tallest when he pushes his signature sound into uncharted territories, showing more vocal range and unique rhyme schemes on “Tahoe” and “Pink 10s.”
Ray is not a new rapper: he has been in the industry for over a decade and is a Midwest icon. He’s perfected the Detroit sound, smoothly rapping over spare piano loops and heavily programmed drums. There’s a plethora of that sound on Unfuckwitable, from the Kash Doll-assisted “Allowance,” to the album’s closer, “Change You,” but those are also the album’s weakest moments.
But those canonical Detroit sounds fall flat when presented next to tracks where Ray is more experimental with his cadence and delivery. On “Pink 10s,” Ray raps in an intricate scheme, trading bars with the Louisville youngster with a charming sense of spontaneity. The floating flute and Mandolin-sounding strings on “Tahoe” leave Ray in an unfamiliar sonic landscape, which he traverses with ease, resulting in the best song of the album.
Unfuckwitable should be viewed as a stepping stone, a teaser of what’s to come next from the reinvigorated Detroit MC, but with all of Ray’s unfiltered talent, we’re hopeful for a more ambitious product.
The movement is growing for sure.
Yes, a little more variety would go the distance in nationwide exposure.