Murda Beatz / Shordie Shordie: Memory Lane 2

Shordie Shordie is a rapper comfortable playing both casanova and jilted ex, sometimes in the same song. He got his start as the hook man for Baltimore rap trio Peso Da Mafia, turning tracks like “Money Man” and “About Us” into anthems for the hustlers and romantically downtrodden. As a solo artist, Shordie has leaned more aggressively on the romantic side of things, delivering dispatches from the nebulous corners of situationships like a raspier version of fellow DMV vocalist Brent Faiyaz. Chameleonic Canadian producer Murda Beatz was a periodically interesting foil for Shordie on their first collaborative album, 2021’s Memory Lane, but his beats often blended into the background. This year’s Memory Lane 2 is like a DLC pack for the first project, tweaking the muted sound of the original and more fluidly displaying Shordie and Murda’s chemistry.

As a producer, Murda Beatz is a jack of all trades who can come across bland, a type-beat producer watering down distinct regional flavors. The Memory Lane projects stick to the guitar melodies and 808s that typify Shordie’s catalog. Roughly two-thirds of Memory Lane 2’s production is string-based; most of it is serviceable, but some songs have more personality and finesse than usual. Early highlight “Me Too” features skittering hi-hats that play double-dutch with guitar strums and Shordie’s lively hums. “A Nice Time” teases out a flamenco shuffle, turning a tale of interstate love into a nervy and seductive dance.

Shordie has always been the animating force behind his and Murda Beatz’ best songs, his melodies, stories, and trademark “ayeee-yeah-yeah” adlib bursting with color. Only he could croak-sing to a woman about having sex with her sister, like he does on the hook for “Drink,” and make himself sound more endearing. Flow-wise, he’s dexterous and unpredictable. “Ride With Shordie Pt. 2” chronicles a drug deal, party, and anxiety-riddled drive with a girlfriend over the course of a night; Shordie brings it to life with a rat-a-tat delivery at the start, then raps verses seemingly in one gulp of breath. His voice can communicate fear (“First Kiss”), excitement (“Sin City”), and regret (“Farmers Market”) effortlessly.

Memory Lane 2 really revs up in moments where Shordie and Murda Beatz go offscript. “WYO” turns the cliche sidepiece narrative into a dialogue, with guest BlakeIANA just as down to creep as Shordie is: “I’m so P, won't tell your bitch, but I might put it in my song.” “Don’t Forget Me” dwells on a drug-fueled fling over a jaunty hyphy beat, the melancholy lyrics contrasting with the peppy atmosphere. You can tell Shordie and Murda are getting more comfortable around each other, figuring out how to turn foibles into ear candy.

Whether he’s dodging enemies or linking with a new lady for the night, Shordie is constantly grappling with several things simultaneously. If he’s with one girl, he’s thinking about another; if one drug trade or shootout ends with him alive, he’s occupied with a different one that almost went south. There’s tension and unease in even his most relaxed songs, and that multifaceted approach seems to be rubbing off on Murda Beatz. The production, though still mostly leaning on reliable tropes, is a little more challenging and curious than before. More collabs together might be what it takes to get Murda Beatz to fully loosen up.