Chicago is a war zone. While the news wires are abuzz with recent killings in Missouri, New York, and Los Angeles—and law enforcement’s involvement therein—the violence in Chicago rages on, to the tune of more than 250 murders already this year.
At the same (damn) time, the Windy City boasts what might be the premier stable of young talent in hip-hop. Long renowned for its culture of lyrical and vocal dexterity—and a storied list of battle rappers—Chicago now finds itself on the cutting edge of commercial rap, a petri dish of sounds bound to break nationally. But the discussion inevitably circles back around to the social climate. Is a rapper who documents the violence on his block doing vital reporting? Is he contributing to the problem? Neither? Both?
And somehow, Lucki Eck$ is unaffected. Perched comfortably in the eye of the story, a few Xan bars in, the 18-year old is fixated on one thing: drugs. Body High, his newest free offering, is not Hell Hath No Fury; references to fiends and covert transactions are plentiful, but oblique. When, for example, Lucki raps “Last night, boy, I worked the whole block by myself” (“Finesse”), he’s merely setting a scene. “I sell these pills to who don’t need ‘em, then I pop ‘em myself.” Anything that can be ingested in pill form is a gateway to a new world. Lucki Eck$ is Alice and he can’t stop changing sizes. The Kings and Queens and Cheshire cats are just white noise.
So where does Lucki Eck$ fit in Chicago? He has none of the elder statesman’s perspective and concern—Common’s Nobody’s Smiling or Rhymefest’s alderman career this is not. But his cool is quieter than Chief Keef’s, derived from poise rather than an inscrutable recklessness. Nor is Lucki the stone-faced reporter that Durk, Bibby, or Herb can become. His engagement with the outside world is passive and fleeting. That’s not to say he’s not incisive: On “Witchcraft,” he kicks himself for allowing a girl into his life, only to have her sell him out—only he then remembers he gave her the damning information by his own volition. The culprit? Xanax.
As much joy as Lucki takes in his vices, a measure of trepidation creeps in now and again. “Xan Cage,” an early single from Body High, toes the line between loving ode and lament better than any rap single this year. The hook ends “I would try to get off it, but I’m feeling too lazy”, and the journey to the center of Lucki’s psyche drives home the point. “I treat my broad like a broad” is heartbreaking in a way that only a self-conscious 18-year-old can make it—Lucki is maintaining the same façade he always has, but his motives are now different, less admirable. If you still need convincing that the Chicagoan understands the gravity of substance abuse, “Xan Cage” is followed by “Can’t Blame You,” which opens “Heard my ex-bitch fiending now, she want some X, I tell her ‘exit’.”
Still, Body High is not an after-school special. There is no PSA at the end. The fourth wall remains firmly in place; Lucki Eck$ just wants to rattle it from time to time. His tendencies are a familiar hybrid of your drill rap playlist and your Tumblr feed, but he wrings the style for all its pathos. Time and again, Lucki proves himself a focused, coherent writer, a trait that grounds his off-handed delivery in an important way. He fits comfortably in the pocket of the en-vogue production. In fact, this might be the area in which Lucki has the most room for growth. He clearly has the skill set and vision to step outside some boxes; for now, he seems content to fill them with crumpled dollar bills. In any event, Body High is a persistently impressive effort, an intoxicating 40 minutes that you might have to sleep off.
4 out of 5
You can download Body High here.