MPA Duke ft. Skippa da Flippa - “Go Left”
Finally, longtime Young Thug-collaborator MPA Duke is stepping out of the shadows and releasing some music on his own. You might know Duke from his appearances on songs by Thugga, Kwony, PeeWee, and most recently, Jose Guapo, or you might recognize him from hanging out with literally every rapper in Atlanta, particularly one Rich Homie Quan. Here on “Go Left,” we see Duke helming the ship alongside Skippa da Flippa, another close confidante to the Atlanta stars, whose trusted role in the Migos’ inner circle has only recently translated onto record with a feature on the trio’s Zaytoven-produced “50 Chicks.” While Skippa’s verse chronicling his rise from jumping off the porch at 10 years old to now working with Scott Storch at 21 is a doozy, the force of MPA Duke’s breathless-but-composed delivery precludes any chance of the show being stolen, with Duke alluding to the already classic “Who’s On Top,” reminding us that he’s “still thinking of a master plan” before finally putting the inquiry to rest: “Who’s on top? Me.”
Now I’m not sure why MPA Duke released his debut mixtape, Got Bars, without so much as a tweet but I’m just thankful the ubiquitous Atlantan found time to release a career anthology before unleashing his Brick Squad debut, 1017 Duke (which, being a theoretical Brick Squad debut, is no fait accomplit). Until Got Bars’ unpublicized release back in June, I had long feared that MPA Duke and his fellow MPA compatriate Wicced might one day be mentioned in the same breaths as such NYHC luminaries as Dmize, Altercation, Trip 6, Krakdown, and The Psychos: tragically obscure artists who managed to shine so brightly on their few existing recordings but never saw a proper release. While we still have no sign of a Wicced debut, Duke at least has seen fit to strike his name from the conversation.
Operating as an MPA primer of sorts, Got Bars spans Duke’s career from his earliest BFPL days until present. In addition to its brand new offerings, the tape includes a sampling of his contributions from Kwony Cash’s Da Voice of the Streets ("Guess What" but not "For Dat Money"), Young Thug’s I Came From Nothing 2 ("Who’s On Top" but not "Above Dem Niggas" or "Fuck 12"), and Gucci Mane & MPA PeeWee Longway’s Money Pounds Ammunition ("Started From Scratch"). Got Bars also includes a selection of Duke’s even more obscure tracks, culled from the the musty corners of Soundcloud, Hulkshare, and YouTube. While fidelity may vary from song to song, MPA Duke’s consistency across the collection of odds and ends is unwavering.
Kicking off this long-delayed debut is the Young Thug and Wicced-assisted “It’s Our World,” one of Duke’s finest songs and a first-rate slice of Thug apocrypha. It is as much an assertion of bravado as it is declaration of alienhood, with Thug singing both “It’s our world, we make it spin” and “This a spaceship, did I mention that I’m an alien?” An effective introduction to say the least.
A disciple of the feature verse himself, it makes perfect sense Duke should include a smattering of memorable ones on his debut. We are treated to not only Wicced’s trademark whisper ever harkening back to Atlanta’s Futuristic era, but a Yung Booke-orchestrated experiment in pure bliss ("Sum I Know Bout"), and even several appearances from the elusive Frunny from BFPL, who appears in this ancient photo, one of the greatest music videos of all time ("Everyday I Gotta Shine"), CRE’s largely unsung Large in the Game, the incarcerated Tay Man’s truly unknown Pillsbury Street, and the most recent installment in the Fake I.D. series.
Although the supporting cast most certainly sweetens the pot, MPA Duke stands on his own merits. From vivid recollections of meager beginnings (“We come from eating noodles, bread, and canned goods”) to the fake crowd roar introducing “Why They Hate on Me,” MPA Duke’s debut feels like a personal and an artistic success. While he may threaten to cut your cocaine with baking soda a couple times on the tape, you owe Duke a listen. Honestly, the man’s work is worth your time if only for the impossibly cool Hey Arnold tattoos on his ribcage.
Although nearly a year lapsed between the photo shoot for Got Bars and its online release, I’m just thankful MPA Duke finally has one in the books. Now all we can do is sit back and cross our fingers in hopes that 1017 Duke materializes, a full version of “Kick It With a Boss” one day blares throughout Lenox Mall, and, perhaps most importantly, the MPA film, Imagine, sees release.