Courtesy of SOB X RBE/ Empire

Coming in hot after their stellar performance on the “Black Panther: The Album” track “Paramedic!” SOB x RBE are back with the release of their debut studio album, “GANGIN.” The album is a follow up to their eponymous 2017 mixtape, a release that showed promise but overall felt riddled with untapped potential. But that’s not the case with “GANGIN,” where it feels like the group has a lockdown on their identity, which results in a hip-hop album that isn’t pressured into conforming to the tried-and-true sonics of trap. And while this group is nowhere near the most lyrical or diverse, especially considering the aura of inexperience present throughout this album, each of SOB x RBE’s members pull their own weight on this project with standout performances where their individual strengths really shine through.

The tracks on this album are tough and unapologetically reckless. With a great combination of electronic beats and flows that harken back to an earlier time in hip-hop, this album feels like a modern-day fusion of N.W.A and Too $hort. In the modern hip-hop scene where many complain that individuality is in short supply, SOB x RBE stands out by striving to be different.

Album opener and single “Carpoolin’” also stands out as a unique track. With a prominent keyboard and fast baseline, it’s a throwback to the pop-locking singles of the ‘80s. It also samples the 1983 single “Silent Morning” by Noel, which contributes to the song’s old school aesthetic. From its start, the track’s instrumental has a very rapid and aggressive tone, which is matched by DaBoii’s hectic energy. Compared to the other members of the group, DaBoii consistently comes in hot with substantial aggression. However, the award for best verse on the track goes to Yhung T.O. While not as loud or in-your-face as DaBoii or Slimmy B, he stands out by providing lyrics that just feel a step above SOB x RBE’s other members. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call Yhung T.O. a wordsmith by any means, his performances give off a laid back aura of musicality that is rarely matched on this album.

“Anti Social” is one cut that matches “Carpoolin’” in quality. With its synthy, electronic, almost trance-like beats and Yhung T.O.’s airy vocals, it’s one of the slower (and catchier) tracks on the entire album. It also features a verse from DaBoii whose abrasive delivery contrasts Yhung T.O.’s performance in a way that compliments the overall vibe of the track for the better.

In the latter half of the album we get a surprisingly genuine perspective on the track “God,” a solo track from Slimmy B. Backed by a beat uncharacteristically somber for the group, Slimmy B delivers what boils down to an introspection of his own life and aspirations. The concept of praying to God for wealth isn’t exactly unique in hip-hop, but what Slimmy B does in this track is delve deep into why he has these desires, and what purpose he believes that wealth would serve.

Throughout the track, we get insight into his struggle of growing up without a father, and can recognize that this pursuit of wealth is driven by the obligation he feels to support and provide for his own son. Without a chorus or bridge, the track is as simple and broken down as possible, relying entirely on an excellent two-minute verse that works on its own. It’s a unique and fresh take from an album where I would have least expected to find depth.

Verdict: “GANGIN” is far from perfect, but considering how young SOB x RBE’s career is, it’s extremely promising and has proven that this group is something to look out for. There is no shortage of talent, especially from Slimmy B and Yhung T.O. If they can build on the good and improve their rough edges, the Bay area group could potentially become something great