The rapper is officially reintroducing herself to the world with a new name and new sounds.
The number 777 – emblazoned on the backside of rapper Latto’s right hand – holds significance in many cultural capacities. In numerology, it is an angel number; the Supreme Mathematics of the Five Percent Nation establishes it as a God Number; it is ubiquitous in Abrahamic religious texts and references and represents harmony in Confucianism. “It holds a very deep weight with me,” the Clayton county rapper says during a Hot 97 interview about her new album, titled after the triple-digit number. “It’s balance, it's completion, it's evolution, it's growth, it’s the universe. It's everything aligned."
That evolution extends to her newly abbreviated name – Latto, and occasionally Big Latto, harkening back to her 2019 EP of the same name – hoping to be shorn of the racial overtones of her previous iterations, it is now short for “Lottery,” which she emphasizes on the unyielding “Trust No Bitch”: “Big Latto – short for lottery / So ‘fuck I look like losing?” Her updated moniker is the culmination of a year-long legal process for a performer whose catalog going back to when she was 8 years old. The hope is that it is the harbinger of “good fortune; financially, spiritually, emotionally,” as she tells NME. “turning over a new leaf.”
Latto is at her best when she is given space to breathe life into a track with a mixture of her wordplay and drawn out southern inflection, making a couplet like “Panamera comin' down Tara, Audemars cost a Camaro/Ho think she fuckin' with Latto, Bitch can't see me in the mirror” rhyme, as she does on “Southside.” On “Sleep Sleep,” Chicago rapper Twista’s “Get It Wet” is sampled for an erotic fantasy that seems to be begging for a feature verse from the Greater Atlanta area’s reigning king of the sex anthem, Ludacris – the structure seems to even be reminiscent of his 2004 single “Splash Waterfalls.” “Sunshine,” a self-proclaimed “hood gospel” from Latto, has the young rapper holding her own against heavyweights Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), a marked high note in the album that is only mildly deflated by Glover’s insistence to insert a superfluous and unwelcome lyrical juxtaposition for the moment: “my sons are mulatto.”
The highly anticipated “Real One,” unfortunately, falls short of expectations; despite the thrust of Pharrell’s production, Latto never seems to settle into the groove of the melody, delivering a formulaic R&B ditty that seems interchangeable with any one of the toxic relationship songs out in the market today. “Bussdown” – a song that became the subject of heavy scrutiny in the days leading up to the album release, due to increasing fan and media speculation of sexual harassment by Kodak Black (who has recently had to settle criminal charges of sexual assault) – seems like Latto’s spin on a Young Thug track; absent a feature from Thugger himself, the song feels negligible and could have been swapped for a stronger track in Latto’s deep bench of tricks, if not another freestyle. (While Latto cited harassment from an artist who she collaborated with, she never made a specific claim; fans named Kodak Black, but he and his engineer, Dyryk, have both denied the accusations.)
At a tight 33 minutes, Latto doesn’t give much of a chance to dwell on the low moments; every serviceable club track like “It’s Givin’” is followed by the bright and booming bass of “Stepper,” paired with equally gutsy lyrics. The Lil Durk feature on “Like a Thug” may leave much to be desired – an ode to the power of pussy without capturing the bravado required for the intended role reversal – but the opening three-track run of “777 Parts 1,” “2,” and “Wheelie (feat. 21 Savage)” serves as a strong opening salvo to her sophomore offering.
“Big Energy,” however, remains the big outlier and her biggest song to date – an unmistakably pop track with a Southside spin: “Make 'em sing to this pussy like a melody.” While the “Genius of Love” sample may feel comfortable and familiar, particularly to fans of Mariah Carey (who appears on the remix), the track is definitely a step removed from potential Target commercial syncs and licenses; regardless, heavy speculation remained as to whether this move was an imposition from her label to satisfy an increasing perceived trend of women in rap needing to find commercial success in pop to remain marketable. According to Latto, that is far from the case. “[My A&R] was scared of how I was going to react to it,” Latto told Variety. “But I was at this headspace at the time where I just wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted the album to be very versatile.” Despite the record’s success, it still isn’t much more than paint-by-numbers pop-rap; considering the height of the young rapper’s skillset, it is hard to believe that she can’t develop a more dynamic song in this increasingly relevant niche, should she choose to diversify her sound in future projects. But for now, as she said in her “Super Gremlins” freestyle, it sounds like she got in her pop bag just for the hell of it.
Coming out of her sophomore project, it is clear that Latto is a young artist who, while skilled, is still very much in transition, and trying to determine not just who and what she wants to be. Her time under trial by fire has led to a bit of maturity, and she has sought to learn from previous bouts of defensiveness, choosing to explore it in her work; as she continues to articulate her craft and shape her identity, her technical skillset continues to buoy her where her artistic choices may still fall short. Did Latto hit the jackpot with her second album? Not exactly, but she certainly proved that she’s here to stay.