Written By: JRN
Now I’m going to just step out on a limb and say this: Starlito is the Southern rap equivalent to LeBron James. I can hear my homeboys now, “Hell nah bruh, you trippin. That’s Drake, That’s Kendrick, blah, blah, blah.” But, hear me out. Let me first say that I am by no way, shape, or form comparing the two as far as their status or stature in their respective fields. We all know that “Bron-Bron” is arguably the greatest ball player of our generation. As for Starlito, though highly respected in the streets and backpack culture alike, he has not garnered the same mainstream buzz as some of his peers. Though this may hold true, ‘Lito and the King share one trait that separates them from the pack—they make those around them better.
Coming off of the success of the critically acclaimed Step Brothers mixtape series with fellow Tennessee artist Don Trip, the Nashville MC would go on to release a slew of mixtapes that would solidify him as one of the most lyrical artists to come out of the South in the past decade. On the Step Brothers mixtapes, ‘Lito and Trip displayed a chemistry that trap music had never seen (my opinion people). Their dark, eerie, yet heartfelt, and sometimes comedic recollection of trap life were some of the most honest and accurate depictions that the flamboyant sub-genre had ever seen. I like to think of this period as Starlito’s “LeBron and D-Wade years”. The relationship between ‘Lito and Trip was that of not just colleagues or peers, but more like brothers (hence the name of the mixtape series). The duo fed off of one another, typically bouncing verses back and forth which often times ended with an alley-oop followed by a crazy punch line. Hey, remember when D-Wade threw that crazy no look behind the head alley to LeBron? (see what I did there).
Without his longtime running mate by his side for much of 2018, Starlito would prove to listeners that he was not only a complementary piece, but a highly sought-after trap rap superstar who could help boost the careers of those on the come up. In June of this year, with no real heads up, ‘Lito dropped Open Case, a 7-song collaborative EP featuring Jacksonville MC and MobSquad front-man, MobSquad Nard. Towards the end of this project on the song “Love/Hate,” Nard opens up about how Starlito was the one artist with a big platform that gave him a chance in the rap game, dubbing ‘Lito as a “real nigga” in his eyes. The tape itself proved that ‘Lito’s witty word play along with his uncanny ability to collab with artists put him in a class of his own. I look at ‘Lito as LeBron and Nard as Kyrie in this instance. Much like Kyrie, Nard is an artist that shows a lot of promise, working with ‘Lito on this tape on sharpened his lyricism as well as subject matter.
Fast forward to last month, ‘Lito finds himself in a very similar situation, this time with a new teammate (kind of like LeBron in L.A). The artist, Nashville newcomer Trapperman Dale, the project, Trapstar, and the result: another tape in heavy rotation in a trap near you. Though Starlito continues to display his lyrical abilities, this tape sees him play the role of big homie more than ever. Trapperman Dale (whose name is HARD as fuck may I note) plays a similar role that I see the Lakers Brandon Ingram playing alongside the King this year. With solid lyrics and an ability to make catchy hooks, Dale shows glimpses of brilliance. The 1,2 combination of ‘Lito and Dale in my opinion is one of the strongest duos in Hip-Hop today.
Now, I’m going to get in my A&R bag really quick and form a dream collab of sorts (well, MY dream collab) involving ‘Lito. Tennessee is a state that is known for producing some talented groups, i.e., 8ball & MJG and Three 6 Mafia. In a state with so much talent beefing with one another, I think its time for two heavy hitters to get together and go crazy: Enter Young Dolph. The charismatic, crafty, yet underrated lyrist is one of my personal favorites and seems like a no brainer for a future Starlito collab album (Dolph was last featured on Lito’s Black Sheep Don’t Grin album). This is a project I want to see happen for so many reasons but I’m going to just list 3 of them:
1. They have a proven track record together;
2. Starlito can reach a more mainstream audience while still pleasing his core fan base;
3. Both of their adlibs would sound crazy following one another’s (insert Lito’s “ewwwwwllll” followed by Dolph’s “It’s DOLPH”).
Hey, a fan can dream, can’t he? I can only speculate what ‘Lito’s next move may be, until then, I’m going to keep bumpin’ this Dale and ‘Lito “My People” joint.