Moneybagg Yo's 'A Gangsta's Pain' went No. 1. He's back to soundtrack your summer with 'Speak Now.'

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This album cover image shows "Speak Now" by Moneybagg Yo. (CMG/N-less/Interscope via AP)

NEW YORK – In 2021, you heard it: Moneybagg Yo 's “Wokesha” blaring from cars and corner stores — an undeniable song of the summer that helped turn the Memphis rapper into a No. 1 artist. His fourth studio album, “A Gangsta's Pain” topped the Billboard 200 that year, all but confirming his place atop the trap throne. Now, three years and one mixtape later, he's dropping his fifth studio album, “Speak Now."

For an artist accustomed to releasing a new album each year, on top of countless mixtapes, it is easy to wonder — why the break?

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“I was just dealing with personal life,” he told The Associated Press over Zoom. “Sometimes you gotta step back and just analyze, get right, and come back way harder and figure out how to go about stuff the next time."

"Every time you drop something, it gotta be like a new movie. You know what I’m saying? Nobody want to see the same movie, like, go to the theater and see the same movie. So you got to give them something different every time."

“Speak Now” endeavors to do just that with all the of characteristics of a Moneybagg Yo banger — trap and drill bolstered by the Memphis drawl of his flow.

As for the delay, Moneybagg Yo doesn't reveal details of exactly what he's been going through. “You gotta give them bits and pieces," he says, "You can’t give them too much."

Some hardships have been documented: Nuskie, another rapper from Memphis signed to Moneybagg Yo's Bread Gang record label, was shot and killed in 2022. He was 26. In fact, the Memphis music scene has lost a lot of talent recently — Three 6 Mafia's Gangsta Boo, Big Scarr Snootie Wild among them — as all eyes continue to view the Southern city as a hot bed for the next generation of trap.

“I'm not the only one who go through stuff, like everybody across the globe, they go through stuff and you know what I’m saying? So, I can be here for them by me speaking and putting my talents to use. I can be... like helping others."

“Speak Now” functions in that way, but mostly in that it's all “turnt up, club” records, he says.

“'Speak Now' is like the energy, summertime vibe. Like, the now-ish type music,” he adds, “Dedicated to my fans. They’ve been rocking with me.”

The release is stacked with collaborations, everyone from Lil Durk and Kevo Muney to an unexpected Morgan Wallen feature.

It is a controversial choice to include the country musician, who was arrested in April after police say he threw a chair off the rooftop of a six-story bar in downtown Nashville. In 2021, Wallen was suspended indefinitely from his label after video surfaced of him shouting a racial slur. In 2020, he was arrested on public intoxication and disorderly conduct charges after being kicked out of Kid Rock’s bar in downtown Nashville. He's also one of the biggest names in contemporary country, with his third studio album, 2023’s “One Thing at a Time,” becoming the most-consumed album in the U.S. last year.

“I'm a fan of his, of course,” he says, “But I'm his favorite — let him tell it.” Both hail from Tennessee, and as the rapper tells it, they had instant creative chemistry. “I had the song for a year and half, two years. He was just always telling me like, ‘Bro, put the song out, when our song come out,' and then this was the perfect time.”

And on the topic of timing, after the release of “Speak Now,” Moneybagg Yo will release another album to partner this one later this year. He says that full-length, “is for the women.” It's “melodic vibes. Not just strictly for women, but melodic vibes, like ‘Wokesha.’”

For an artist who might've taken time between his fourth and fifth albums, he laughs: “He’s still here,” he says in the third person. "He didn’t go nowhere. He’s still doing it.”

Message received.


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