If Detroit has become the de facto center of the universe for a new generation of street rappers with a penchant for deadpan punchlines and copious punch-ins, then Memphis is something of a sister city. Led by the producer triumvirate of Tay Keith, Hitkidd, and Juicy J, the city’s resurgent scene has expanded far beyond Tennessee’s borders to cultivate a new lineage of raunchy, inescapable club-rap anthems.
St. Louis’ Sexyy Red is the latest emcee to flip Three 6 Mafia’s tried and true formula into a contender for Song of the Summer: Her horny-as-hell breakout single “Pound Town” is a graphic, often hilarious celebration of casual sex that’s guaranteed to be a floor-filler for months to come.
Though it can be tough to follow up bottled lightning with a full-length project, Sexyy Red’s sophomore mixtape Hood Hottest Princess manages to succeed by sticking to her strengths. Light on features and capped at a lean 30 minutes, the release is packed back to front with hard-hitting nu-crunk energy and pornographic quotables—exactly the kind of material anyone pressing play is looking for.
Tracks like “Looking for the Hoes” and “Sexyy Walk” demonstrate a deep understanding of what makes great party music tick. Working with a uniform palette of plunking keys, canned horror-flick strings and simple drum patterns, Sexyy Red punctuates each track with call-and-response sections, dance instructions, and hooks that you can effortlessly shout along with.
The music and lyricism aren’t earth-shattering, but the emcee’s effortless charisma and unpretentious writing make it tough to find fault with when played at high volume. And, while the tape maintains a consistent energy from start to finish, there’s just enough variation in its beat selection to keep things interesting.
“Female Gucci Mane” migrates south from Memphis to mine for influences, taking its instrumental cues from the kitschy synth melodies and brassy bombast of early Atlanta trap mixtapes, while providing bars from a female perspective often missing from the scene’s iconic releases.
“Walkin’ past the mirror, I’m like damn, I’m getting thick; 5’5, slim thick, with some juicy lips,” she raps over buzzy, Zaytoven-esque production. While nostalgia’s currently in vogue among Hip Hop’s mainstream, it’s refreshing to hear a classic sound rebuilt from the ground up rather than off-handedly incorporated into a sample drill beat or interpolated, karaoke style. It’s a more natural conversation between the present and past that embodies the best of each sound.
The loopy, sometimes dissonant backdrop on “Nachos” is even somewhat reminiscent of fellow crunk-revivalist Tisakorean, occasionally delving into psychedelic collages of adlibs, stuttering chops, and organ slides. Most importantly, it presents a potentially exciting lane for Sexyy Red’s future evolution.
The following cut, “Mad at Me,” hits with the same bassy force, but its skeletal arrangement has diminishing returns. As fun as the sound can be, you can only hop on so many beats composed of only staccato piano notes and basic 808 samples before simplicity loses its appeal.
As effective as Hood Hottest Princess may be as a concise, high-octane statement, its homogenous composition would likely grow stale if it were any longer than a half-hour. As demonstrated by tracks like “Nachos,” there is plenty of room for her to grow beyond the tape’s minimalist ethos without sacrificing her distinct personality: Sexyy Red’s commanding presence and libertine subject matter are weird enough to handle more unconventional production.
In its present form, though, the tape is an excellent introduction to her sound that isn’t just made to score parties—it is the party, turning a commute, gym session, or long shift into an impromptu rager between your ears.