I became a full fledged Kevin Gates fan right around the time Kevin Gates spit “IHOP” acapella atop the roof of Nice Kicks and everybody around him ate up every word. Gates already has a rather awkward stance in rap, constantly finding himself in jail and back out than releasing new material or having the ability to capitalize on it. SXSW was his taste of freedom – and he treated it as such.

“I don’t know if I’m going back or not,” Gates told the crowd that night. One friend of mine treated every Gates performance like it was pilgrimage and I couldn’t help but agree with her. Even attempting to catch him later that night during Southern Hospitality’s rooftop show at Avenue was a failed mission thanks to everybody and their mother standing atop one another. There’s a certain engaged fun behind his raps, believably gangster and incredibly melodic. It’s why tapes such as The Luca Brasi Story & Stranger Than Fiction feel so robust and polished. His voice is what carries these effects, these strong emotions which is why your favorite homegirl who prefers trap and gritty rap will fawn over KG than someone who doesn’t exactly fulfill those same qualities.

By Any Means, his first project of 2014 sees him mostly going for broke with the likes of the late Doe B, 2 Chainz & Plies playing accompaniment. “Don’t Know” and “Bet I’m On It” have their legion but in full, it’s another excellent Gates moment, one following his triumphant SXSW week feels like a victory lap. Stream the project below via LiveMixtapes and if you really want to support the Baton Rouge rapper, buy it on iTunes.

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