Montana of 300 is a drill rapper from Chicago. He built a name for himself with several mixtape releases on the popular streaming service, Spinrilla, but his debut LP came in 2014 with Cursed With a Blessing. The album was one of the best of the year, sporting better instrumentals than most of his counterparts and elevated highly by Montana’s hard-hitting flow and daring lyricism. Nevertheless, the LP was seemingly lost in the sea of drill releases coming out of Chicago at the time and he became something of a second tier drill star, lacking the crossover name recognition of artists like Lil Durk and Chief Kief. Since then, he’s dropped four albums, beginning with 2015’s Gunz n Roses, which was widely criticized for sanding off the rough edges of the drill sound to find a wider audience.
This was a shame because Montana’s sound on Cursed was the perfect, distilled essence of what made drill what it was. He wrote boldly and delivered his lyrics with an explosive flow. All this over hectic tracks which, while they did abuse the electronic cymbals, weren’t infected with the bass heavy mixing style of trap. Gunz n’ Roses was a major turnoff for me as a fan, adding rock instrumentation poorly and watering down his writing. Thankfully, A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk is something of a return to form.
The truer drill influences are clear from the first moments of the opener, “Favorite Teacher,” as well as the later track, “Art Class.” Here, the abrasive instrumentals and lo-fi production are perfect throwbacks to the golden days of Chicago rap, which has now been mostly taken over by trap beats. The latter even features a few excellent drop outs, a veritable staple of the genre, which are timed very well.
The flows on this album are absolutely bombastic. “Been A Beast,” follows the opener and simply refuses to quit. “Good Luck,” is another excellent example of 300’s strong flow. Both see him dropping one meaningful bar after another and dance over the beat with an unpredictable rhyme schemes. Over the tinnie instrumentals, these vocal performance drive each track along, as not one drags, even for a moment.
Beyond the flow, he also seems to have quite the affinity for writing hooks. “Long Way,” is perhaps the most obvious example of this, sporting an excellent, autotuned hook, but “What’s Wrong With Me,” slips comfortably into the latter half of the track list despite a catchy chorus, good message, and well-sampled guitar.
Above all, though, it’s the lyricism that sets Montana of 300 apart from his drill counterparts, as it always has. The fantastic closer, “Bloodsport,” showcases his ability to address serious topics like his mother’s drug addiction, his desire to leave his dangerous neighborhood, and one of his favorite topics, organized religion. The latter is particularly unique within the genre.
There are two underwhelming cuts on this project as well. “FGE Cypher Pt. 8,” while fun, certainly doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. In addition, none of the features live up to the standard which Montana set’s throughout the rest of the record and several lean on an overdone, triplet flow, causing the track to fall a bit flat.
The only truly bad song on the album is “Dip-N-Sauce.” This is the only cut that I likely won’t revisit again after this review as the strange flute melody and annoying reggae influences feel like a strange entry from the depths of left field. It’s also, mercifully, the shortest song on the album and as a function it feels a bit underdeveloped.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a few general, structural complaints about A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk, but I can overlook most all of them for two reasons. Firstly, this album does a lot of things, namely pacing, cohesiveness, lyricism, and production, which are generally considered absent from the drill genre as a whole. Each song clocks in between four and five minutes and that runtime is used well to develop ideas and write full choruses. This is incredibly rare in one of rap’s most anarchic subgenres. The second of these is quite simple:
A Gun In The Teacher’s Desk is a return to form for one of drill’s most promising early artists which keeps many of the qualities that drill fans have come to love, while improving on the genre’s faults in a mature and creative way.
HEAR A GUN IN THE TEACHER’S DESK: https://open.spotify.com/album/2o5kWHEh53gIQZwZxKDfqr