Gucci Mane’s latest protégé, a smooth-talking rapper with a nonchalant charm, steps into the spotlight after a streak of well-liked mixtapes.

If you were making a random stage name generator for Atlanta rappers, Hoodrich Pablo Juan, with its suggestions of street bona fides and kingpins past, might sound like the type of output you design backwards from. But Hoodrich Pablo is a real guy—late 20s, born in New Jersey and raised in Atlanta—and he’s not posturing at all. Instead, he’s one of the best real-time mirrors into his city’s rap scene, a raspy-baritoned boaster who raps simply, often in triplets, and with a light-footed nonchalance. After a year of bubbling hits (“We Dont Luv Em”) and mixtapes that put him in a steadily growing spotlight, Hoodrich Pablo is poised to go even bigger in 2018.

Rich Hood is the second project he’s released since signing to Gucci Mane’s 1017 Eskimo label, and comes just a few months after last fall’s well-designed Designer Drugz 3, whose title and release strategy implied a fluid transition from mixtapes to albums. Hoodrich Pablo is not unlike his label boss in blurring the lines between the two formats, for better and worse. They both favor a fast-moving, stream-of-conscious release style that may ultimately make that a moot distinction. So while Rich Hood sounds a lot like the mixtape series its artist is trying to graduate from, that’s hardly a flaw.

The beats here are empty and rattling, to varied effect. On “Flawless,” with its atmospheric synths and booming bells, that sound feels sinister; on “Faygo Creame,” it comes across playful, rambunctious, almost bouncy. Pablo is an emcee who can engage a conversation endlessly without running out of things to say—or at least, one who doesn’t mind saying the same thing twice. As a result, many of his songs seem to bleed together. But then he’ll rap something unexpectedly goofy that sticks, like a threat to “put a hole in your head like a dolphin” (a memorable image, even if Juicy J said it first) or hit you with a quippy, extravagant non-sequitur, like “Drop off a bale in a pickup truck/Givenchy’s are very particular.” (More often he’ll share a clunker and make it sound slick: “Got powers like I’m Austin,” he shrugs on “Flawless.”) He’s obsessed with calling his weed “gelato” and often raps like he’s talking out a thought out for the first time. “The fuck you lookin’ at? Oh, that’s a fan,” he muses on “Walk Thru.”

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