Arkansas, 1957. Elizabeth Eckford walks to school. In her black shades, she emanates coolness. Upon arrival, a vicious crowd barricades the entrance, a moment now immortalized in U.S. history. White mothers, fathers, students, military men contort their faces. Some spit. Most hurl vile threats. All of them bank on this 15-year-old student not returning the next day. But she did, day after day. Four decades later, Kari Faux would attend Little Rock Central High School, too. Her new album REAL B*TCHES DON’T DIE! channels the resilience of Black Southern women. Its motto: “Y’all niggas ain’t stoppin’ shit!”

While it was on, you couldn’t watch a season of Insecure without hearing one of Faux’s liberated, self-affirming tracks. Lead single “Me First” would slot right into a scene of Molly and Issa hyping each other up on the way to the club after one of them sabotages yet another relationship. Over holographic pianos, Faux is unabashedly selfish. She fiercely guards her comfort against the vampires who would dull her shine. Her incredulous disgust is hilarious: “I ain’t fucking for no purse!” Bullied as a kid, Faux learned to disarm people with jokes. “The earth controls the moon, the moon controls the tide,” she muses before landing the punchline: “But I can’t control when you niggas go and tell a lie.”

Her 2019 EP, Cry 4 Help, planted a seed of emo-confessionalism that comes into bloom on B*TCHES DON’T DIE!. “My mama seen me cry, she wiped my eyes,” she opens the album in an almost childlike sing-song. Her good friend, rapper Chynna Rogers, passed away in 2020, a day after the release of Kari’s album Lowkey Superstar, and Kari also lost her cousin a year later. In a recent interview with i_D, she opened up about the way grief changes from day to day: “There are moments where you’re like, ‘I’m outside, I’m lit, I’m turnt up with my friends,’ and then the next day, you can be like, ‘Damn, I really miss so-and-so,’” she said. On this record, she memorializes her loved ones with uptempo, confidence-inspiring anthems, wielding the title slogan to reinforce her power. “Our ancestors made four ways out of no ways,” she says on “White Caprice,” reminding herself of the women in her bloodline who demanded the world for themselves and their kin—and still made time to party.

From chopped and screwed (“H-Town”) to funk (“Drunk Words, Sober Thoughts”), REAL B*TCHES DON’T DIE! showcases the richness of historically Black music. In her element in Southern rap, Faux is noticeably revitalized. Her country twang wasn’t as audible on previous projects, but here—in the way she pronounces “marijuana” on “White Caprice” or “blessing” on “H-Town”—it’s commanding. Her unique diction makes familiar phrases her own: “Young! Black! And gifted-ed!” Some moments she invokes the brash raunchiness of Crime Mob’s Diamond and Princess, particularly in the ad-libs. Other times, her voice embodies the husky androgyny of La Chat and Gangsta Boo. “Peace to the Black babies born below the Mason-Dixon,” she introduces “White Caprice.”

Producer Phoelix, a go-to for eclectic rappers like SminoSaba, and Noname, contributes a masterclass in homage. Instead of copying successful Southern songs from the ’90s, he adds tinges of the indie psychedelia that are integral to Faux’s sound. Her hard raps over lo-fi horns and thumping basslines harken to OutKast’s Aquemini, while a melismatic, Arabian flute-esque sound in the middle of “Gemini+” builds upon Parliament-Funkadelic’s experimentalism. The effect is a hazy, humid atmosphere. “Drunk Words, Sober Thoughts,” “Past Life,” and “Borrowed Time” all stun with an immersive funk sound that Faux has never fully committed to in the past. Cringy singing is a rite of passage for plenty of up-and-coming rappers, but you can tell she’s been working on her voice. From the owl-like “who-who”s on the chorus of “Turnin’ Heads” to the way she emulates the soulful rasp of Macy Gray on “White Caprice,” she’s in full control.

Faux’s South is defined by raucous family reunions, subwoofers blasting on summer days, and classic Chevrolets that have both ferried families to church and supported women gleefully twerking on their hoods. Like many young creatives, she was taught to believe that Los Angeles was the mecca of music. The faux-artsy individualism thing lost its appeal quick. Her Southern roots, rich in maternal wisdom, hospitality, and familial comfort, proved bountiful. On the Gangsta Boo-assisted “White Caprice,” two generations of Southern rap cruise through Doberman-filled neighborhoods, taking in the scents of barbeque and mary jane. The late rapper’s presence ties perfectly to the reverential theme of the album. Real bitches transcend mortality.