Memphis rapper Moneybagg Yo solidified himself over the past five years as one of the most prolific emcees in Hip Hop’s current landscape. A string of LPs from 2018 to 2021 culminated in A Gangsta’s Pain, which found him advancing his formula of trap and drill bangers built around his distinctive flow, stark introspection, and disrespectful assortment of ad libs.

Last year’s layoff found him becoming a single father due to the tragic murder of his ex-girlfriend, a cheating scandal involving his current partner, and a lean relapse. Still, all that couldn’t slow his artistic momentum. On Hard To Love, Moneybagg Yo addresses his real life pain in some of the most vulnerable material of his career without sacrificing the street anthems that made him a star.

“Keep It Low” featuring Future drips toxicity and feels destined to be bumped in clubs. The irreverent interplay between the chorus and ad libs on “F My BM” makes it a crowd pleaser. And “On Wat U On” with fellow Memphis native Glorilla is a genuinely pleasing duet by artists with complementary personalities and flows.

On “Still,” he unapologetically acknowledges his relapse on lean: “Still sippin’ on that drank even though I said I quit/ Still loving on this ho even though she ain’t my bitch/ still’ll pull up in the hood anytime I get ready.” It’s a clear message that as high as Moneybagg Yo climbs up the charts, he’ll never forget where he came from, or how he got there.

But the new status came with a price, and Moneybagg Yo grapples with that fact openly in some of the most honest moments of his career. “Gotta confess, hate bein’ famous, but I’m blessed. This shit so bittersweet, remind me of my ex,” he admits on “Hurt Man.” He unloads in striking fashion how he feels alienated due to his fame and fears he’s too damaged to love. On “More Sick,” he recounts in vivid detail how he consoled his children in the wake of their mother’s death while mourning the loss of multiple friends himself.

The lone weakness of the record is Moneybagg’s loyalty to the standard trap fare when it comes to production. The album doesn’t take any creative leaps in that respect, which is a bit surprising considering his shift to mainstream appeal.

On Hard To Love, Moneybagg Yo delivers a well-balanced trap treatise on the bittersweetness of fame and the difficulty of living real life in the spotlight. Not many artists could blend those deeply personal elements with the bawdy trap anthems that keep clubs churning but Moneybagg Yo seems to be an exception.