Review: Don Trip & Starlito’s “Stepbrothers”
SoulCulture (UK) - August 2011
When video of a frustrated, unknown father recording a deep and highly emotional track titled “Letter to My Son” hit YouTube about two years ago, it quickly went viral and had many in the Hip-Hop community clamoring to know more about the MC with the passionate bars soaked in a syrup-thick southern drawl.
Today, about 1.4 million views later, Memphis, Tenn., native Don Trip has the respect of many of the game’s top artists and producers; is signed to Miami-based super producers Cool & Dre’s Interscope-distributed Epidemic Records imprint; and is busy putting together his debut album, tentatively titled Help is on the Way.
In anticipation of his forthcoming debut, Trip linked up with fellow Tennessean Starlito – his brother from another mother – for the Stepbrothers project, a mixtape inspired by the Judd Apatow film of the same name.
Just like the movie’s principal characters Dale and Brennan, Trip and Lito came to fuck shit up – but only figuratively, not in the typical, drunken, the-party’s-over-‘cause-we-just-made-fools-tear-the-club-up manner you may have come to expect from artists hailing from the home state of Three Six Mafia. Stepbrothers is (refreshingly?) devoid of any clear-cut riot inciters but is heavy on catchy tough talk, vivid trap tales and humorous wrestling metaphors (such as Starlito’s “I’m Brian Pillman high” proclamation), all spread over original production and sequenced around some of the film’s funnier soundbites. It’s basically a couple good friends who got together to unabashedly have fun doing and talking about things they enjoy – almost like a sonic incarnation of Dale and Brennan’s “karate in the garage” episode.
Trip and Lito’s almost-brotherly chemistry and traditionally Tennessean beat selection (mid- to uptempo, bass and hi-hat heavy) make Stepbrothers a generally entertaining effort, but Trip is certainly the primary draw and his MC superiority is apparent throughout.
With a technical prowess comparable to that of Eightball but with more introspective and narrative ability, Don Trip could prove to be the nicest rapper that Memphis, Tenn., has ever produced. His microphone presence is arresting, grabbing listeners’ attention with an energy and honesty rarely seen in in today’s Hip-Hop. While even his superficial rhymes are pretty official, Trip’s skills shine brightest (and totally dwarf co-star Starlito) on tracks like “Life” and “I Hate You 2” from Stepbrothers that allow him to really tap into his trove of emotional experiences and really pour his heart out. The depth and poignancy of many of the tales Trip weaves evoke visions of the legendary Scarface who, like Trip, often uses the vocal booth as his own personal confession room.
Of course, Trip has quite a ways to go before he can be fully and fairly compared to the one and only Brad Jordan, but this particular juxtaposition is not jumping the gun in the least bit. Don Trip has the potential to be the next big artist to come out of the South — not a One-Hit Wonder with some corny dance record, but a complete artist with swagger, sensibility and substance.
So while Stepbrothers as a whole isn’t breaking any new ground in the mixtape game, it most definitely served its purpose of whetting the collective appetite of those hungry for more from this Don Trip character.