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Roy Gunna

Early Retirement Volume 1
(Vocal Music/Omega Flight Music Group)

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The debut from 23-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, rapper Roy Gunna is "Dedicated in the memory of J. Dilla," and many of the songs are built upon the kind of assuredly bleary sound for which the legendary late producer was known. The beats are impressive for a debut. The pillowy synths, soul samples, bobbing bass lines and subtle jazz tones on Early Retirement Volume 1 call to mid-'90s positive rap from acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Common. But Gunna is an unknown at this point, and so he indulges in his share of underdog boasting. Nearly every track fades into the sound of Gunna identifying himself, and if there's a unifying thread running through the album, it's that it's time for established rappers to move over to make way for the next big thing — that thing, of course, being Roy Gunna. If Gunna sharpens up his bars (many of his raps follow similar cadences, and he leans awfully heavily on the word "uhnn" to fill otherwise empty lyrical spaces) and if he works on building fuller songs (only a couple of the 16 tracks clock in over three minutes), I might be inclined to agree. Until then, it might be a little early for Gunna to declare retirement.

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