Childish Major knows he’s a diamond in the rough. For the past seven years, the South Carolina-born rapper/producer/songwriter has made a name for himself by crafting lush and trembling sonics. Major’s 2017 debut WOO$AH offered a peek behind his posh curtains: He’s a warm-hearted Millenial lothario merely trying to get his shit together.
That personality type is very much intact on Childish Major’s latest project, his major-label debut, Dirt Road Diamond. Major, born Markus Randle, is still cruising down life’s windy highway searching for new experiences, but this time around he’s more reflective. The same blend of situationship jams and dusk-shaded reflection that color WOO$AH creeps further inward on this concise 11-track offering.
For every story of Major showing love to a college-bound stripper (“For You”), there’s a wedding ring creating a missed connection between potential soulmates (“No Sweat”). “What’s better for your face than falling flat on it?” he asks on “Tenfold.” For anyone who has climbed or is currently climbing the ladder of romance, this is a highly relatable question.
Childish Major is comfortable sharing the intimate parts of his story on Dirt Road Diamond, evidenced by some of his most potent writing to date. “I worked a fast-food job for a slow ass check / Wouldn’t even ask you for a ride ‘cause I got so much pride,” he admits on “To My Little Homies.” Carefully, Major manages to balance blowing off failed flings with the kind of midnight joyrides that take your brain to dark places.
The album never becomes too dour, though, a credit to Major’s work behind the boards. Wavy synths and tightly constructed drum patterns give Dirt Road Diamond a bounce suitable for the late-night escapades the project will likely soundtrack. They also help us forget about an unsavory (“I guess a slutwalk is safer than a crip walk”) guest appearance from Ludacris on “No Sweat,” which threatens to upend the balance Major maintains across the album.
Dirt Road Diamond is at its best when Childish Major leans into thoughtfulness. “Pull Up Game Crazy” is an example of the album running on all cylinders. Fuzzy keys and cascading drums set the stage for a story about fast love, which begins when he “couldn’t even afford a Honda Accord” and ends with placements on a chart-topping Dreamville compilation album. When Major is finally ready to man up, the mystery woman reveals that she has dreams of her own that can’t wait. Damn.
Childish Major continually goes back to his bag of tricks across Dirt Road Diamond. But with the stings of his past now informing his future, the resulting product finds a bright star vying for his chance to shine.
Standout Track: “Pull Up Game Crazy”
Best Bar: “Why I ain’t never surprised by a hater / You just beggin' for WiFi to collect all my data.”
Favorite Moment: Remembering when Ludacris wasn’t 1000% cringeworthy on record.