The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
It's probably best to listen to City Girls' music the day after your paycheck deposits in your account... if you still have money left. But, then again, if you're living paycheck to paycheck, City Girls' chastising bars may make you want to crawl into a corner. Hailing from Miami, the duo of J.T. and Yung Miami are at once, extravagant and intimidating. "Fuck Dat Nigga" was their angry debut single that appeared deep in 2017's Control The Streets compilation, courtesy of Quality Control. They became icons for young women overnight because of their confidence and fresh rhymes that weren't stepping into Nicki Minaj's innocent corner of the market, nor Cardi B's gangster-adjacent style. Their debut, Girl Code, is finally here and it takes their aesthetic and ups it by ten. It's fast, hot and demanding. It just happens to sound damn good, too.
Here are our five takeaways from the album.
Check your wallet before pressing play
If you do any of these things, then Girl Code isn't for you:
1) Use Retail Me Not to get promo codes for Papa John's pizza
2) Scan loyalty cards when you go to the supermarket
3) Carry loose coins in your pocket
4) Ask a friend, "Yo, let me hold $10 until payday"
5) Have a payday in the first place
6) Consider eating something off of the dollar menu
City Girls' vivacious new album makes it clear that the path to mutual attraction lies in not just financial stability, but financial dominance, as well. This album's not for the faint of heart. If you so much as even owe a utility bill, it will delete itself from your streaming service of choice. "Season" implores men to spend money on partners that they find important and for women to not settle for anything else. Yung Miami reveals four of the things she's planning on, if you want to impress her: New teeth, a bag, a watch, and a car. Plus, if you so much as roll your eyes, then she's out of the door. Her confidence is mesmerizing and compliments her steadfast flow. She strings words together with her country drawl that's equal parts mesmerizing and tantalizing. Lil Baby acts as a disgruntled wallet with legs, spilling about his refusal to spend money on a woman that isn't his. The way, it contrasts with Miami's verse and it's hilarious. "Broke Boy" comes next with its overbearing production and continues the previous track's sentiment. This time, instead of welcoming the bag being spent on them, City Girls attack the men who aren't dishing out large sums. Once again, if you're not quite financially "there" yet, this track, like "Season," can be hard to swallow.
The production captures Miami's spirit
We're a month away from the winter solstice and in Miami, it's 81 degrees. The city's known for its southern heat and wild nightlife. Shades of sexy Miami vibes can be found in the production of Girl Code and it's varied, illustrious and captivating. Across the twelve tracks that comprise the album's tracklist, you'll find tantalizing trap 808s ("Panties and Bra"), booty-bouncing claps ("Twerk"), obnoxious horns ("Broke Boy") and much more. This varied approach makes the album sound larger than what it actually is. Each song bursts with an energy that reaffirms City Girls' dynamic claim to the throne. The only common thread connecting a majority of the album's tracks is that they are mid-tempo bangers that probably work best in party environments like concerts, bars, and strip clubs. Save for the uncharacteristically slow-moving "Give It a Try" with Jacquees, Girl Code's backbone is designed to enable its creators to run rampant with club sounds. They succeed in the process.
Taking, not just accepting, sexual agency
What made Lil Kim one of rap's most captivating female lyricists in her heyday was that she demanded her sexual power work in tandem with her God-given gift of lyricism. She didn't just accept that she was a sex symbol. She ingrained it into her character and in the process, created one of pop culture's most important and influential artists of all time. Looking at Nicki Minaj, Cardi B or Asian Doll, it's clear to see just how much of her aesthetic has trickled down over time.
City Girls have clearly been inspired by Kim's blueprint. It's no guessing game either – they shout her out on "Swerve" ("Feel like Lil Kim, swerving in a jag"). They're every bit of commanding, demanding and sensual with their rhymes. But, what makes them most like their predecessor is how they grab their sexuality by the horns and brandish their agency. Their raps alternate between sexually explicit and commanding. For example, one minute J.T. tells you the length of her bedroom skills, the next Yung Miami is kicking you out for having an empty wallet. There's no shame in their game – as there shouldn't be. When speaking to "The Breakfast Club," Miami revealed that, previously, she felt as if she shouldn't ask a man about his money because she didn't want to appear weak. She eventually realized that inquiring about it doesn't expose a weakness. Time is money, so spending her time will cost. Lil Kim also made it clear that her time is valuable. So, to get her, you must be willing to go out of pocket. City Girls continue this legacy and bring this mindset into the new age.
Where's the flow variety?
The City Girls' flows are captivating, but they're largely monotonic. Both Yung Miami and J.T. rap briskly with enough energy to liven up the song's atmosphere, But, this energy never changes throughout the album. What makes Nicki Minaj such a captivating lyricist -- even if she's not the most charismatic -- is her unpredictability. She sings, spits straightforward on occasion and can even emulate classic flows of rap paragons. City Girls, in comparison, keep things largely predictable. J.T.'s delivery is a little stronger with more jarring punchlines. Yung Miami, by comparison, is a bit tamer. But, the way that she puts emphasis on shock words (e.g. "pussy," "broke," "dick") sends adrenaline coursing through the veins. Aside from a lightly sang chorus or two, the pair's one-note flows slightly hinder an introductory album that could have used a little more diversity.
J.T. and Yung Miami pass the baton easily
You'll come for the rhymes and then, become enamored with City Girls' camaraderie. One of their hidden, perhaps unspoken, strengths is the level of chemistry that they showcase when occupying the same space on tracks. The duo's transitions are seamlessly interwoven and happen, often, in the same breath. The way that they pass the baton off so flawlessly reminds me of Rae Sremmurd, as each member's switch offs feels natural and unforced. The chorus for "Season" features City Girls' voices in unison, while Miami adds Quavo-level adlibs to compliment the tropical chef d'œuvre. When the two are in sync like this, it's nearly impossible to find fault with their music.
It'll become clear after listening to Girl Code a few times through that there's no one occupying a similar space in women's rap. In an age of more understated, relaxing rap, City Girls stick out like a sore thumb. Their sexually dominating, finance-shaming rhymes are much more visceral and blatant than the one-off quips given by artists like Asian Doll and Cuban Doll. City Girls commit to their aesthetic and stick with it. They demand that women know their worth and claim their power in a fun, celebratory kind of way. Their music is a direct extension of this belief, something that Girl Code makes clear over the course of its runtime by delivering a declaring sermon. While they have some refining to do to ensure that this style doesn't run dry, Girl Code establishes a corner of rap for City Girls that similar artists are unable to box themselves into. They give a blueprint for women to step around misogyny and for men to come to terms with what they have to do keep a woman's attention. To find out, it'll cost ya.
More by Trey Alston: