NLE Choppa - Top Shotta (Album Review)

At just 17 years old, energetic up and coming rapper NLE Choppa has released his debut studio album 'Top Shotta'. The teenager burst onto the scene with his hit song 'Shotta Flow' - and since then he hasn't looked back. After a few mixtapes and EP's as well as some chart success - it was time to see how a full length album would fair for the Memphis rapper.

The production on this album overall is pretty lackluster, it's full of banging beats that get a little bit repetitive. There's a clear formula here - the bangers have hard pianos and heavy/deep trap beats such as on 'Camelot', which had been out for a while - and still holds up as an absolute banger with great energy and a solid flow over the hard piano and catchy melody. It's a song that really gets you hyped. Meanwhile the more emotional tracks have lighter piano keys and lighter trap elements to them, such as on 'Made It Happen', where the simplistic beat works for its purpose as he talks about making it from the rough streets to where he is now. His performance on this song is strong with some great lines, "Ayy, yeah, you helped when I was down, but I did more when I got up", and while it's not the most engaging song still due to mainly his delivery and the beat being too stripped back - it's still a decent song. 'Top Shotta Flow' has this very generic, deep 808 sequence as he talks on the trap life and shooting - and like a few songs on here it's boring and literally the same as about 4 songs that came before it - if you keep using the same overplayed formula then the album won't be very good.

Choppa has a good bar in him. Sometimes his songs are also full of graphic but entertaining lyrics such as on 'Shotta Flow 5', "Straitjacket music, I belong in the psych // Felonies and felonies, this what they keep on sellin' me (Yeah, yeah) // This recipe is deadly, see, I be drippin' like relish be (Ayy, ayy) // Shoot him in the head, shoulda had on a hard hat (Ayy)", which uses again the same formula as the previous Shotta Flow's - but adding his more melodic edge and flow switches he managed to keep this one interesting and the 5th installment is the best since the first 2. Tracks like 'Make Em Say' have funny lines in there, "Keep my dick up in her dome, I'm fuckin' up her chromosome (Chromosome)", and while not clever they make me laugh. This song focuses on sex as we get a more R&B beat on this as Choppa provides catchy melodies with that refrain and the feature Mulatto gives us the female perspective with a hard delivery and some hard hitting bars. He really tried taking a different approach on this track and it paid off. Other times however, he just says stuff in a generic, basic or uninteresting way - there's inconsistencies in his performance here. The opener 'Daydream' has some funny lines, "We gon' leave 'em extinct, that boy, he a dodo (Ayy, ayy) // Free my n****, hope the judge get AIDS", as it sticks to familiar topics over this fast piano and heavy bass - giving us a good and energetic banger to kick things off. His delivery is full of an incredible amount of energy which is his main attraction - as well as that his singing voice on this project isn't bad.

The features on here do well for the most part - but there's only 4 - and for a 20 track trap project, I want way more than just 4 features to keep things fresh. We get a Chief Keef feature on 'Shotta Flow 4' and while it wasn't anything crazy - he had a presence on the track. The more bouncy and lighter piano keys were alright but again this track uses the same formula and it's so boring at this point - I liked Shotta Flow 1 & 2 but it's so played out now. Roddy Ricch is quality on 'Walk Em Down' with the usual vocal inflections and nice melodies as the pair talk on the trap lifestyle over these catchy 808s, guitar and nice flute. It's a really nice song - Choppa's melodies have really improved and with a banging beat, great verses and a great clash of styles - this is a banger. Lil Baby who seems to be everywhere was also featured on the single 'Narrow Road', and he gives a pretty decent performance which to me is rare, with some decent lyrics, "Road gettin' narrow (Narrow), slimmer and slimmer (Slim) // Pray to God that I forget, try my best not to remember (Ah) // It's a cold, cold world and I was born in December", and some more charisma on the track and the pair talk on the environment they were bought up in - leading them to the life they now live. The trap beat creates a dark atmosphere and for the first time since the beginning of the project - we actually have a great track full of passionate verses and a nice hook.

There's no real variation on the content here - it's mainly shooting his opps and the trap lifestyle, found on any track I could pick at random such as 'Murda Talk' which has a pretty bland beat and is one big verse - which he performs with an uninteresting delivery, uninteresting lyrics and a lack of exploring the topic. It didn't even have a hook to make it bearable it's just one long and boring verse. There's some more emotional songs on here, but they don't really dive too deep and are quite surface level. An example of this is 'Depression', the final track which has this heavy bass and slower drum pattern partnered with melancholy piano keys - which sounds really nice as he talks about his depression. This track is a great example of song writing - the hook is emotional and sticks out, his delivery is despairing and although he doesn't go into much detail - it still gets you emotional. 'Watch Out for the Narcs' is another track focusing on the street life but focusing more on the hard time living that kind of life. The beat uses this sorrowful formula which isn't complicated but is calming and sounds good, as Choppa's nice melodies work with this emotional atmosphere created for a good song.

Other tracks to look at include 'Double Bacc' which is a decent song about killing his opps over a fast paced piano and banging trap elements, and while it's decent there just isn't nothing special or unique about it. 'Who TF Up in My Trap' as well is pretty mid but has this great spiraling synth line as he talks about shooting people up and selling drugs. It isn't bad just not overly entertaining and sounds like a lot of songs here. It's a nice beat, great energy but not overly interesting. 'Shotta Flow 3' as well is another uninteresting installment into the series with the played out hard piano beat as it just sounds the same as every other Shotta Flow I can't get hyped to something I've heard twice before already. 'Neighborhood Watch' has a lighter beat with sparkling piano keys which sounds a bit bland, as we get another boring and generic track that's easily passable about shooting, flexing and the trap life.

Following 'Neighborhood Watch' we come to 'Can't Take It', which has this electric guitar infused trap beat (which I wasn't feeling much) as he talks on his gangster lifestyle. There's some mean bars in there, "Look too hard, you'll get shot 'cause your bidness, you ain't minding that (Brrt, brrt) // Shot him in his back, he asked the doctor where his spine was at" , but again it just isn't very interesting, the hook isn't really captivating and the song sounds generic. 'Gamble With My Heart' is where things start to pick up again as the track has similar topics and a melancholy beat - and while I don't love it, it added a new dynamic to this album which was needed and it's still a decent, emotional song about the streets despite being quite surface level. 'Molly' has a subtle but bland beat as Choppa talks on having sex with this girl who's off a load of drugs. There's some witty one liners but also some basic punchlines, his melodies are decent here too but again the long verse is just hard to stay interested when the storytelling isn't elite. The song isn't generic like some others on here - and it isn't bad either, just average. Finally, to talk on 'Paranoid', we are greeted with another melancholy piano beat which is alright as he talks on his fear of loneliness, his baby on the way and his mental health. I appreciate the different approach with the more relaxed delivery which works over the beat - I just wished he explored the topic a lot more.

To conclude, this album can seem very one dimensional and tiring until we are shown some versatility with the emotional tracks - he doesn't really go into much depth with these and doesn't show anything no one else can do. It's got a good start, a good ending but a bad middle section - and like most trap albums this year it's over-bloated and should've had many songs cut. The singles were the best part of this project, and there was too many boring and overplayed moments. NLE Choppa has potential but he didn't meet it with this one. There is as much good as there is bad, and it's nice to see a new side of Choppa but overall this averages out to a straight down the middle score.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Daydream, Make Em Say, Camelot, Walk Em Down, Shotta Flow 5, Narrow Road, Watch Out for the Narcs, Depression



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