February 24, 2024

It’s been three years since City Girls put out an album, and the last time didn’t go exactly as planned. In June 2020, their sophomore project “City on Lock” leaked in its entirety — before the album had even been announced — prompting the rap duo to rush-release the record. For “RAW,” City Girls‘ third studio effort released today, JT and Yung Miami made sure everything was in its right place, which meant delaying the record numerous times over the past few years.

“It’s like a stepping stone,” JT tells Variety. “You know how sometimes you just feel like you see everything coming together, but you’ve waited for it to happen for so long? I just feel so excited. I feel like it’s going to shut a lot of people up too. I feel like a lot of people are going to tune in just to have something to say, and when they finally listen to it, they’re going to like it.”

There’s something for everyone on “RAW,” shorthand for “Real Ass Whores,” an album that stays true to the revved-up party-starters that bolster their discography. JT’s “No Bars,” which dropped in the lead-up to the album’s release, sets a defiant tone, while Muni Long sands down the edge with an R&B touch on the slinky “Emotions.” Then there’s the brash, empowered City Girls that fans know too well: “Show Me the Money” demands respect (plus a Coupe and a Birkin); “Work For It” emphasizes that nothing comes for free, and the Lil’ Kim-sampling “Tonight” pulls no punches about what happens behind closed doors.

“RAW” is precisely what its title suggests: a record comprised of classic City Girls, from the X-rated lyrics down to the familiar samples (like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You”). They also take new swings, swerving into the pop lane on the glitter-bombed “Flashy” featuring Kim Petras. “We never really did a pop record,” says JT, who explains she heard a few different people on the hook before deciding Petras was the best fit. “It’s an experiment for the both of us. You just never know, and I feel like it’s just us trying something new.”

The Miami natives, who got their mainstream start in 2018 after an uncredited feature on Drake’s “In My Feelings” raised their profile, have reached a point in their career where music may be the focus but their every move is scrutinized. The internet is constantly chattering about their relationships — Miami with Diddy, JT with Lil Uzi Vert — and they’re no strangers to a TMZ headline. But “RAW” is an attempt to recenter the narrative that they’re artists first — not social media talking points.

“Right now, it feels like there’s a lot of people doubting us,” says JT. “It’s just a bitter time for a lot of people coming out of the lockdown and people feel so entitled and opinionated and it’s just popular to be hateful right now. I won’t say that people are just hating on us, I just see a lot of hate in the world. I hope that this album puts fun back into music from our direction. I hope it makes them fall back in love with us.”

To that, JT and Miami are locked in on City Girls, and how to keep up the momentum. They’re planning their first headlining solo tour, complete with backup dancers, and hope to close the gap between this album and the next. Miami is feeling the love for her side hustle as host of the podcast “Caresha Please,” which has spawned countless viral moments since its launch in June 2022. She lets JT do most of the talking here but opens up about recently winning best hip-hop platform for the second year in a row at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.

“It feels good to do something outside of [music] and to be able to win an award so early and soon and to express something outside of my box,” she says. “I never saw myself doing a podcast, but now that I’m doing it, I’m starting to love it and I feel like that’s my lane.”

With “R.A.W.,” City Girls remind listeners what they’re all about. They’re frank, and unapologetic, and hope that comes across in their latest body of work. JT says it plainly: “Shut the fuck up and enjoy the music and consume the music and love the music. That’s what I hope they take away from this — just the music.”

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