It’s getting hard to tell which modern rap duos are forged from legitimate friendship and interest and those created as label cash grabs devoid of real soul and chemistry. On the spectrum from the effortless chemistry of Lil Baby and Gunna to the soulless combination of Lil Wayne and Rich The Kid, the duo of 42 Dugg and EST Gee exists somewhere in the middle.
The pairing makes sense on paper; the Detroit and Louisville natives occupy the same ideological sphere in the genre, marked by heart-pounding basslines and macabre-laced bars that sound more like promises than threats.
Last Ones Left, the first full-length collaboration from the duo, was likely forged solely because both exist under Yo Gotti’s CMG imprint. But their proximity-based partnership produces natural chemistry, avoiding the pitfalls of cheap collaborative albums such as Lil Durk and Lil Baby’s Voice of the Heroes. Even as the tone gets old after 17 tracks, the tape goes hard for a commercial project.
It’s clear Dugg and EST Gee didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. Their respective strengths, which hinge on Dugg’s high-pitched quips and EST Gee’s snarling threats, creates enough moments that bring satisfaction, setting the standard for what one-off duos should aim for in the future. The songs are simple, devoid of variety or risk taking. The two trade verses until the beat runs out, with a few interruptions from unheralded artists that capture some spotlight. It’s a formula that works best in short spurts, and the pair adheres to those guidelines religiously.
The purposeful placement of the singles makes the album a smooth listen, giving the listener clear benchmarks to look forward to in different sections. To their credit, the production styles feel distinct enough to make it seem like Dugg and EST Gee can run their relay race on any background. The electronic keyboard clashing with the pounding bass on “Thump Shit,” the NBA YoungBoy-inspired “Free The Shiners” and unmistakable piano crashes of Enrgy Beats on “Everybody Shooters Too” — the pair runs in tandem no matter what the background production calls for.
On “Spin,” there’s an interesting balance with their delivery. Where Dugg’s lines feel like drawn-out combos, EST Gee elects to hit listeners with short punches, keeping his threats to seven words or less. “Head, mask, gloves, hands/that’s the get-back for my mans,” he raps, realizing that fewer words when he paints scenes of violence and retribution.
Sprinkled in the back half of the project are solo tracks for Dugg and EST Gee, which provide the opportunity for their lesser-known affiliates to make cameos. Unsurprisingly, the results are mixed. “Free Zoski” is a clear high point, where EST Gee is joined by BIG30 and EST Zo. The newcomer feels like a natural, espousing threats with a frightening apathy, promising to turn his enemies’ “brain to pasta” without a second thought. Other tracks such as “Strictly for the Gangstas” and “Never Scared,” led by fellow affiliates EST DeMike and EST Red, are missing that effortless delivery that fits over monotonous piano beats that mirror the beginning. This run ends the album with a whimper when it deserves a grand finale.
At no point throughout the project does it feel like 42 Dugg and EST Gee weren’t in the same recording booth, going verse for a verse while sharing mics. The natural rapport they possess is rare in these increasingly random rap duos. It’s unclear if this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership or a one-time arrangement.
Time will tell if this album has staying power, but at the very least, Gee and Dugg have mercifully raised the bar for star rapper collabs. Let’s see if their counterparts follow suit. There’s now a clear bar for the rest of these one-off partnerships to match.
Est gee and 42 dugg on last ones left? pic.twitter.com/H1iPa9Q5BD
— Koolz ➐ (@DumbKoolz) April 8, 2022
Last ones left > watch the throne
— Icewater D (@markmerlot) April 9, 2022
That est gee and 42 Dugg tape some mid, gotta few slides tho
— ? (@DantStuntin_) April 8, 2022