Lil Keed Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Rising rapper Lil Keed grew up along Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta’s Zone 3 neighborhood, which has also been home to one of the most colorful and creative forces in the past decade of hip-hop: Young Thug. At 21, Keed is part of a youthful crop of Atlanta MCs who’ve studied Thug’s work and learned how to wring a rainbow of emotion out of a single syllable. Keed buckled down and gave rap his full attention in 2016, and since then he’s ridden that style to fame. Last year, he broke out nationally with “Nameless,” where he slathers bittersweet vocals about a lustful fling atop a slow, whirring instrumental. By the end of 2018, Keed had signed to Thug’s YSL Records, all but inviting listeners to hunt for similarities between the two MCs. As Keed told XXL earlier this year, he frequently gets compared to Thug: “They can’t compare me to nobody else. I learned from him. I incorporated my own style but I don’t sound like him. You know Thug when you hear him; I don’t sound like Thug.” On June’s Long Live Mexico (YSL/300), though, a lengthy and sometimes laborious mixtape whose songs often blur together, Keed does sound like Thug, especially on the two tracks where Thug appears—the student seems keen on following his teacher’s lead, sometimes mirroring his energy. Keed makes the case for his distinctiveness much better when he’s on his own: his hiccuping “whoas” on the hook for “HBS” could’ve powered the entire mixtape.   v