When 03 Greedo pled guilty to a drugs and weapons possession charge that led to a prison sentencing of 20 years with a chance at parole, it was the best he could’ve hoped for. Fighting the case was too risky when he could’ve gotten life. One way or another, Greedo was going to pay a steep price.
Inescapability has been a steady theme in the L.A. rapper’s music, which he’s released at a dizzying clip in recent years. (There were three Greedo albums in 2017 alone.) He addresses the inescapability of street life horrors and the ugly chances of survival in parts of America like these, whether the dangers are police or rival factions. His voice quakes with an earnestness that makes even his most nightmarish rhymes tug at your heart. God Level, Greedo’s second album of 2018 and last before he started his prison term on June 28, portrays him as dangerous yet compassionate and wounded. It is the best distillation yet of his tortured hustler mystique.
Greedo is a man with a lot to say, and reason to believe he may not have the chance to say it again. Accordingly, God Level is an ambitious work, a testament to the double albums of yesteryear. It is grim, fun, and tender, sometimes within the same song. Take “Prayer for My Lost,” which finds him remembering the people he’s lost over the years, accompanied by hypnotic piano and an incongruously funky bassline. Greedo’s voice captures the humanity, dread, and even hopefulness throughout. He mashes words together and draws them out in broken whimpers, a potentially off-putting style that he manages to make consistently engaging. On “In My Feelings,” he resorts to straight-up moaning. It might not seem like it would work on paper, but it feels genuine as hell.
The same is true of standout “Bacc to Jail,” where he contemplates the loss of his freedom and wonders whether the woman he loves will still be there for him. “Tell me are you gon’ see bae?/ When I send out that message, would you send me that package?” he sings with a drowsy, emotional need. This same need underlines so much of the album, even when it isn’t made so explicit, particularly on records like “Street Life” and “Conscience.”
At 27 tracks and just under 100 minutes, God Level sprawls, but the album is a breeze: never maudlin even when it’s bleak, its violent lyrics diluted by the sunny West Coast groove and Greedo’s charisma. God Level is a reminder that the world is worse off with him locked away from the music he loves to make.