Youngboy breaks charts behind bars with ‘Sincerely, Kentrell’


Apple Music

After topping Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, “Sincerely, Kentrell” reached 137,000 listens the week it debuted. Youngboy does it again with his impressive release, but what does the future hold for this rapper stuck behind bars?

Back in his home state, Kentrell DeSean Gaulden finds himself sitting in St. Martin Parish Correctional Center in St. Martinville, Louisiana for federal weapon charges after being denied bail. Jail time is neither new nor uncommon for Gaulden as he has been arrested over five times in the past six years, but his experience behind bars this time has proved to be much different than in the past. 

Gaulden, better known as NBA Youngboy, released an album hitting #1 on the Billboard 200 while still in jail. His fans are now petitioning for his release and commending his success despite his atypical situation.

“He sold 138,000 album units despite having no Instagram to promote it on, which is very hard to do,” Ilya Samany (12) said. “I would say no artist in this generation can really do that.”

In 1995, 2Pac’s “Me Against the World” reached the top of the Billboard 200 while the artist was in jail. The second person to achieve this milestone while incarcerated was Lil Wayne. Now NBA Youngboy’s “Sincerely, Kentrell” joins these records, being YoungBoy’s fourth album to hit #1. His music career began in 2015, and it has only grown since.

“I was in sixth grade, and I watched somebody’s Snapchat story … and I decided to listen to him,” Ashley Alvarez (11) said. “I thought that he was good, something new. He doesn’t really match what other rappers do.”

One important factor of Youngboy’s success is his fanbase. Since his recent feature in Tyler the Creator’s “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” on “WUSYANAME,” the rapper’s popularity has broadened, strengthening his fanbase and raising recognition for his musical talent, especially on the app TikTok. After being in prison since March 22, 2021, fans have sought help for this 21-year-old rapper. A petition on titled “Joe Biden Needs To Free NBA Youngboy” has exceeded over 148,000 signatures as of Oct. 13, 2021.

“I thought it was amazing how people really love him that much,” Alex Boyd (9) said. “He puts his emotion and soul in his songs; he shows his pain and struggles.”

Released on Sept. 23, 2021, “Sincerely, Kentrell” immediately played through earbuds and blasted through speakers. Some listeners argue that it was a letdown while others praise it.

“I think this is his best-produced album,” Samany said. “I feel like some songs were a little rushed, but overall, I didn’t find it a big deal. Overall, I give it a 9.5/10 his best album so far.”

With 23 songs total in the deluxe edition, this album is a one-hour and three-minute listen, back to back. With plenty of beat changes and tempo switches, there is definitely a song for everyone to favor.

“From the title, I expected this album to have a lot of emotion and him pouring out himself,” Boyd said. “I listened to it right when it came out. I take a lot of inspiration from him. I loved it.”

Youngboy is known to describe his struggles and feelings in his music, and this drop is not an exception. One personal favorite from the album is “Hold Me Down.” He speaks on his personal growth from having little, facing death in his community, reaching out for help and not being able to or even wanting to explain his pain. The outro features a short piano solo, which I loved. One common instrument in this album is the piano, giving the album a more mellow feel while still being fast-paced rap. There has been some criticism that he overuses the piano, but I argue that it is the perfect addition.

“[‘Hold Me Down’] was the most appealing to my ears compared to the other ones,” Alvarez said.

“Level I Want To Reach” stood out to me as it features his talent for singing. This song is soothing to play especially with the relaxing intro and outro. The lyrics behind this song expose his extreme wealth, yet his struggle with being honest and open with someone.

“My favorite song was ‘I Can’t Take It Back,’” Samany said. “There was a lot of versatility throughout all of it … his intro with a very anticipated snippet, which gave the fans a sweet start.”

The deluxe album ends with two bonuses, “Footstep” and “Still Waiting.” “Footstep” is more mellow in comparison to other songs in the album like “All I Need.” “Still Waiting” stood out to me, as I am sure it did with many others. Right off the bat, it was obvious that it was not recorded in a studio. It was a recording of him singing powerful lyrics on the phone in jail. He sends an apologetic message to loved ones and expresses his feelings of only being looked at for his name and money.

“I expected some of the unreleased songs to be in it that are really good, but he didn’t drop them, so I was upset,” Alvarez said. “With the first song, I was thinking, ‘Oh, this is really good,’ but towards the end of the album, I thought it wasn’t his best album.”

Agree to disagree, this album is one of Youngboy’s best. “Sincerely, Kentrell”’s placement at the top of the charts without promotion says enough about the production itself. Whether you are a “super fan” like Boyd or not one at all, this album is definitely worth the listen.