Littles has been in the hip-hop game for well over a decade, but in his new album Ambush, he’s making it pretty obvious to critics and fans alike that his moxie isn’t starting to die down after so much time spent in the grind. From the opening cut “Opps (feat. aers)” to the blistering psych-funk “Salute Me” and swaggering swing of the Legend Lokes-featured “Changed Up,” Littles isn’t pulling any punches in Ambush – on the contrary, he’s putting as much force through the speakers as is possible from within the four walls of a recording studio. The brawn here is impressive, but more than that, so is the poetic sharpness of every lyric occupying the bittersweet space between beat and bassline.
“To the Money (feat. Baby Jay and Chris Tate)” is probably the most melodic of the tracks found in the first half of Ambush, but it’s far from the lone track here sporting a boldly colorful song structure. Paisa God drops by for a memorable collaboration in “Big Bang” that has more OG energy than anything I’ve listened to on the FM end of the dial lately, while other tracks like “Changed Up” invite some exotic influences into the mix that I wouldn’t have expected to find in a Littles record at this stage of his career. He’s definitely steering clear of overindulgence, but he’s also proving that he isn’t too old to get a little crazy behind the board if it means advancing a narrative with an added dose of muscularity.
We find Littles on his own for the pummeling “Get It Clear” and “Cashing Out,” but even when he’s joined by some formidable talent in Dotty Diablo and Tonioo Mob for “How We Roll,” there’s never any question as to who the number one star of this show is. He’s got a presence that is impossible to ignore, and whether this is your first time hearing his music (somehow) or you’ve been following his odyssey going back to the 2008 full-length debut Out On Bail, you’re bound to walk away from Ambush feeling like you’ve just listened to something special and particularly contemporary for the 2020 sound. This is a rapper who doesn’t have for fluff, and if that wasn’t common knowledge before now, it will be in the wake of this LP’s success in the American underground.
From the bounce of “Late Night (feat. Lover Boi)” to the textured groove of “Last Chance,” Littles’ Ambush is a record most hip-hop addicts won’t be able to put down after a single listen – for its tracklist requires a couple of extra spins to completely appreciate and enjoy. Littles might not have the big budget backing that some of his rivals on the mainstream end of the business have, but that could be why he translates with as much of an honest edge as he does in a record like this one. He’s the real article, and you needn’t give this album more than a cursory examination to acknowledge as much.