Not long before dropping the project, the fashionable lyricist inked a deal with the D.C.-based Studio43 imprint, whose roster boasts names like X.O., Gordo Brega,and AB the Producer. (Once upon a time, Wale was a Studio43 MC before signing with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation label.)
Then, one day before Champion was released, RA was stamped on a BET documentary as one of the music industry’s great up-and-coming female MCs—-not bad for someone who dropped out of New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University more than a year ago to rhyme full time.
“It’s about following your dreams, and being you,” RA says profoundly at the beginning of “Victory Lap,” the triumphant and autobiographical title track of her new mixtape, released earlier this month. Throughout the efficient 16-song recording, which includes borrowed beats from Erykah Badu, Nas, and Biggie, she trots the bases once more, gliding confidently over a spacey soundtrack while asserting a lyrical aptitude strong enough to topple the testosterone of her male-dominated business.
Above all, Victory Lap actually sounds like a mixtape, with quick song transitions and an abundance of guest appearances on its second half. RA mostly went at it alone on Champion, aside from the occasional assistance from X.O. (“So Gone So Long”), AB The Producer (“Good Friends”), and Ihsan Bilal (“Pricey”). Those three artists resurface on RA’s new project—-X.O. spits a memorable verse about struggle on “4 The Belt,” AB lends his production and vocal talents to six of the songs, and Ihsan steals the show on “Told You So.”
On the mixtape, RA and company don’t shoot for an album’s cohesion, assembling a project that seems more focused on fun than fundamentals. Take “Ur So Gay,” for instance, in which RA adds her own singing and rapping vocals to the Katy Perry hit, resulting in an enjoyable pop duet with hip-hop aspirations. On “Hate Me Now,” the MC uses the notable Nas instrumental to fluidly discuss royalty and loyalty within the D.C. region. “Hey, I’m no underdog, and that’s first off/You underestimate, you’ll be the worst off,” RA rhymes over the Track Masters’ beat.
With Victory Lap, RA showcases an almost inexplicable lyrical growth from her last project, which is somewhat rare for mixtapes. Nowadays, MCs rely too heavily on those compilations to increase their marketability, largely saturating the industry with forgettable music. If anything, Heart Of A Champion kept RA within a box in which she didn’t quite fit. On this latest mixtape, though, there’s a sense of freedom that punctuates the accolades, proving that RA’s current place among D.C.’s elite is very much deserved.