If you haven’t been paying attention, Mariah Parker is killing it right now. In one year, the Athens-based rapper and linguist, better known as Linqua Franqa, dropped her debut EP, started managing Tommy Valentine’s campaign for county commissioner, steered the good ship of Hot Corner Hip Hop, and dazzled thousands with her phenomenal opening set for ESG. Her surgically sharp bars cut to the quick, spilling truth like blood on tricky subjects, even as suave beats from the likes of WesDaRuler (aka Space Dungeon cult leader Wesley Johnson) and Murk Daddy Flex (aka multitasking groove master Terence Chiyezhan) surround her. Safe to say, if you haven’t heard Linqua Franqa yet, you’d best amend that.
Now, Model Minority counts as Parker’s first actual full length, yes. Technically, though, HHBTM Records has more or less reissued that first EP, and padded out the rest of the album with two new tracks and three remixes. Of course, if you missed the waves that Linqua Franqa made last year, then this is essential. As far as I know, no one else in 2017 tackled the stigma of abortion with such buttery soul or aching candor (“Eight Weeks”). And I could be wrong, but I doubt anyone else also crooned like Erykah Badu about her ongoing affair with drug addiction in that period, either (“Midnight Oil”). Yep, yep—in the proper underground tradition (I’m thinking Billy Woods here, especially), Parker can condense complicated matters into bangin’ choruses, the kind that you will definitely raise your fist and yell back at the show, and that hasn’t changed in 2018. If you haven’t yet pledged with 100+ other strangers to wake up at 7 and eat your vegetables (“The Con & the Can”), you’re not living correctly.
So, there’s that. Then there’s the new cuts, particularly the two versions of the scathing ode to suicidal tendencies and lyrical substance (yup!) “My Civilian Life.” We premiered the faster, glitch-warped mix from Savannah beatsmith Dope KNife, but the snazzy bossa nova flute and slower tempo of WesDaRuler’s hot take just might top it. Speaking of which, the elegant brag track “Raw” boasts some fine guest verses from the local king of boom bap himself, reminding everyone that he’s earned plenty of turf in the rap game with his stoic delivery. Elsewhere, a piano-haunted mix of “Midnight Oil” strings together the “Breathe In/Breathe Out” monologue, painting the complete picture of Parker’s candid drug abuse confession. Only the a cappella cut of “Gold Bike” seems like a disposable extra—everything else lends another angle to tilt and admire Linqua Franqa’s genius from.
To conclude, then—even if you were paying attention last year, Model Minority serves as a potent gut-punch reminder that Parker is that rare complete package of a superstar in the making. With fearless honesty and undeniable charisma, Linqua Franqa’s proper debut already feels bigger than what Athens can handle.
Model Minority is out today.