In May, Detroit rapper Veeze told Rolling Stone that he took things back to the drawing board after his Instagram page was removed last year. His fans were anticipating a follow-up to 2019’s Navy Wavy but felt like he had hit a period of complacency with rap. Having to run his Instagram following back up to its current 300,000 followers made him reflect on how he could improve his career — including refining his craft. He says time spent around established stars like Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, and Babyface Ray allowed him to observe how to operate on the next level.
He resolved to give Ganger a creative redux. But luckily for listeners, Veeze taking his craft more seriously doesn’t mean pandering or reaching for hits, more subtle additions to an already winning formula.
When a woman calls Veeze “the best rapper in the world” at the end of album opener “Not A Drill,” you know it’s not because he’s overpacking his bars or trying to save the world with social commentary. As overwrought as the phrase is becoming, cutting through today’s DSP congestion is a matter of world-building. The Veeze experience is a sludgy surreality where enunciation is optional, and obscenity is law, and that doesn’t change on his hour-long, 21-track project.
Veeze creeps in from the first second of the album, rhyming, “This not a fire drill.” But the urgency of that phrase is belied by his croaky, nonplussed delivery. Whether he’s rhyming, “room full of money, still room for improvement,” or wittily noting, “I don’t got change for twenty nigga, twenty ain’t none’ but change,” he’s doing it with an intriguing matter-of-factness, with a voice that makes the word dry seem too moisturized. At points on “Weekend,” you wonder if someone in the studio could get him a drink, but then you remember that’s like cutting Samson’s hair.
Listening to him rhyme is akin to observing someone knock over a cup of syrup on the concrete; you’re just watching the slow slide, wondering where it’ll go next. Sometimes, he’ll offer game like “When you get your time, she gon’ fuck half the city / Same niggas that you called “Gang” laughin’ at you,” but more often than not, it’ll be unabashed scumbaggery like “make a bitch walk from here to LA” — hopefully she was already in Compton. It has to be mentioned that the only people who catch more shit on Ganger than fakes and phonies are women, but he doesn’t make the misogyny a conceptual centerpiece like a scorned Future or Drake song; he just makes sure to have a couple of one-liners every song to remind you “I’m purposely toxic,” as he rhymed on “Broke phone” with Lucki. There will definitely be people who can’t get past Ganger’s misogyny, but Veeze isn’t making music for them; he’s the late-night comedian who knows his approach, knows his base, and sticks with it, no matter who’s offended.
Ganger’s production is a glove for Veeze. “Sexy Liar” (produced by M.o.b.) and the literally-titled “unreleased leak” (produced by Bass Kid) would fit in the core of any “quintessential Detroit beats” playlist. The Mitch-produced “You know i” flips Bone Thugs N Harmony’s “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” and Veeze does his most impressive double-time rhyming on the searing sample, also paying homage to Jay-Z with some bars borrowed from “Big Pimpin.” “WHODa1,” produced by co-produced by Mitch and Jay Rich, might be the sultriest beat on the project, while the Rocaine-produced “Safe 2” is an almost bluesy soundscape that shows just how much Veeze was willing to explore his craft.
That said, Ganger isn’t a flawless album. At points on “Robert Deniro,” his delivery gets a little too unintelligible, and the project could have been a bit leaner than 21 tracks. But overall, it’s a strong effort by an inimitable, effortlessly entertaining MC who’s mastered his world.