Max Bell back.

The reason CB4 (really, I’m partial to Fear of a Black Hat) worked well was because everyone involved knew what they were doing and what they were trying to say. They were exposing the facade perpetrated by every rapper that was fronting in the ’90s by claiming to be a gangster, thug, G, OG, etc, throwing up hoods and sets they didn’t really live in or belong to. But more than that, Rock, Nelson George, and LoCash (that’s really the writer’s last name) knew their audience. They were preaching to the choir, to the initiated, to the faithful mass of hip-hop listeners who knew, on some level, that the probability of every rapper on their radio dial being an OG was improbable. Most gangsters don’t have time for the studio, right? They have too much going on in the street, don’t they? (I’m asking. I need to do more research. All real G’s, feel free to answer in the comments section)

The same is true of Chattanooga’s Isaiah Rashad and Nashville’s Brian Cameron. They are rapping for a specific, well-informed audience, for all rap fans fed up with aesthetics and carefully crafted facades taking precedent over authenticity, raw emotion, and rapping ability. “Gusto” is their manifesto. Now, I’m not going to go on a tirade about the state of rap or anything. I like/laugh with Riff Raff just as much as the next guy (Lil B is another story). But this cut from the Tennessee MCs (more below the jump) is refreshing, or something. It’s not that rappers taking shots at rappers playing the role is anything new, it’s just that the regular old beef happens to be perfectly well done here.

The hook is simple: “I’m just riding around getting paid/fucking bitches/Getting paid/Gusto.” The beat (produced by D. Sanders) is minimal and mellow, something that allows you to appreciate each bar while still nodding along. Both Isaiah and Cameron are extremely confident behind the mic, and both seem fully capable of riding the beat as well or better than the Top 40 rapper you love to loathe (cough, Khalifa). The video is bare bones. They aren’t hiding behind the curtain of hundreds and bad bitches (Lupe’s words, not mine). The duo trade lines in the parking lot of what looks like one of their apartment complex and riding on the back of truck beds. Feels real to me. Or maybe I just spit one too many off-beat freestyles in the back of my friend’s truck. Maybe.

My favorite lines come from Cameron’s verse: “So he got a big deal?/Big deal/ So what he spit some shit that ain’t real?/ Get lit and write some shit you can’t feel/So you can get expensive shit and switch heels/ Goddamn, that’s a problem/Y’all fucking up my genre.” It’s line’s like these that make me excited for where rap’s headed (although 2012 was pretty solid). Cameron is taking ownership of both his rapping and the genre, something I think more rappers, including more veterans, need to do more often. He is asserting that there should be a set of aesthetic/artistic criteria when we evaluate our rap tastes and a higher impetus for the creation of music than a deal and new heels for your main chick. Not revolutionary by any means, but admirable nonetheless. And, at least for me, well written and rhyming rhetoric is often very effective when put over some crisp drums and a smooth loop.

As far as I know (please enlighten me), there aren’t many well-known rappers putting it down for Chattanooga or Nashville like these two (where art thou, Young Buck), but hopefully there are more talented MC’s from those parts that will come out of the woodwork. I’m still waiting on the next great rapper from Indiana — though I’ll wait forever if Gibbs keeps it up. So, in summation, I’m digging Rashad and Cameron. And “Gusto” is almost as good as “Straight Outta Locash.” Almost.

Watch:

Listen:

Isaiah Rashad

Brian Cameron