NLE Choppa – ‘Top Shotta’ review: Memphis bad boy softens up on compelling studio debut

He's still only 17, and yet the rap protege here proves himself with a collection that balances his braggadocio and vulnerability to thrilling effect

The newest Memphis rap golden boy, NLE Choppa, has now dropped his debut album after a speedy rise to fame. Choppa – aka Bryson Lashun Potts – has been in the eyes of the blogs all 2019 with his frequent fire singles (see the buoyant ‘Camelot’). With last year’s mixtape ‘Cottonwood’ – a reference to his childhood street – having gone viral, this debut album represents an attempt to prove Choppa is still the ultimate ‘Top Shotta’.

Named after the huge tattoo across his torso, this record is full of explosive tracks, though it is also something of a slow burner. The first half features a bunch of non-cohesive tunes that are sadly subpar compared to NLE Choppa’s piano-led 2019 hit ‘Shotta Flow’. However, ‘Make Em Say’ – with Atlanta rapper Mulatto, the realest female from the South – and the spunky ‘Camelot’ are enough to keep you going.

The former’s excessive use of hit-hats and those stereotypical trap claps is initially enjoyable, though feels a little forced. This raunchy anthem is made for the strip club, but if it wasn’t for Choppa’s ludicrous flow and Mulatto’s cocksure verse, the song would sound stuck in the mid-’00s. With a catchy refrain (“We know some good pussy make a n**** say (Oh uh uh oh / Uh uh oh / Uh uh oh / Ah ah)”), ‘Make Em Say’ is only a good trap-twerk song, but could have been so much more.

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The second half of ‘Top Shotta’, though, is outstanding, demonstrating 17-year-old Choppa’s miraculous maturity. He’s now a father and is evidently realising his huge platform, with tracks such as ‘Made It Happen’ and ‘Gamble With My Heart’ breaking down his deep apathy; on the former he confesses “I done really seen tragedy / But I still made it happen”.

Here, as on similarly reflective album tracks ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Depression’, NLE speaks to his fans intimately; on the latter he insists he’s “a real street n***a”” but admits “I got depression”.

He had an astronomical breakthrough year in 2019, and on this debut NLE Choppa shows off his range, veering from braggadocio to vulnerability. He seems to be moving in the right direction, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps up this bad boy act (with which he risks becoming boring), or continues to soften up.

Details

Release date: August 7

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Record label: NLE Choppa Entertainment/Warner Records

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