Where I’m From is a recurring feature that challenges the Passion of the Weiss staff to dig up new and exciting music from their respective regions.
Compiled by Harold Stallworth
Yung Gleesh (Washington D.C.)
Over the last year, give or take, the holy trinity of contemporary Washington D.C. street rap—Fat Trel, Yung Gleesh and Shy Glizzy—have been forging new working relationships beyond the beltway, to mixed results. Trel’s been rubbing elbows with Keef Chief’s GBE imprint and lending to Master P’s flailing effort to reboot No Limit Records. Glizzy dangled fat, juicy crit-bait on his third mixtape, Law 2, which boasts contributions from Kevin Gates, Starlito and Migos. Meanwhile Gleesh, often touted as the missing link between Trap God and Based God, went from pirating Zaytoven instrumentals to working side by side with the legendary Atlanta-based producer.
The latter development has proved most intriguing; Zaytoven inspired the quirkiest performances on Gleesh’s retail debut, Ain’t Shit Changed, with his trademark mechanical soul. Their latest collaboration, “Wat U Got,” was brokered by GBE affiliate Ballout, probably best known for allegedly robbing Soulja Boy of a costume Jesus pendant. Gleesh’s fleeting 4-bar verses and makeshift hook steal the show here. It’s a fun, albeit inconsequential record. Though, you can’t help but walk away feeling like Zaytoven’s rearview trembling 808 stabs would’ve been far more enjoyable as a Gleesh solo outing. — Harold Stallworth
Young Boo (San Francisco)
As a regional rap blogger, you always want to think that your particular region is making the most innovative and unique rap music out there. Well, I’m here to admit that the Bay is not exactly killing it right now. The biggest problem is that the unique sound that once made the Bay’s raps so distinct is fading away as local rappers lean more and more toward national trends. This is not unique to the Bay Area as the internet continues to eliminate any sort of geographic boundaries that previously cultivated local sounds.
San Francisco’s Young Boo and his sophomore effort, The Laundromat, is further proof of the death of rap regionalism: the album is produced entirely by Zaytoven and sounds exactly like what you would expect; horn-driven trap beats that Gucci Mane probably passed on. The exception is the album’s sole Zay-less cut, a bonus track that sounds unmistakably Bay Area. The beat, driven by tense violin synths, is reminiscent of the Bay’s Mobb music scene from the 1990’s and is matched by Boo’s hard verses with lines like “gun powder on my hand, blood stains on my shirt.” This is what Bay Area gangster rap should sound like in 2013. — Thomas Deiss
Ella Grave (Montreal)
Montreal’s Hip-Hop scene is better known for producing DJs (A-Trak, Kid Koala, Lunice) than emcees (anyone?) so I was apprehensive when asked to contribute to this column. Whether it’s because we can’t figure out which of the city’s two languages to rhyme in or because the city has never had much of a connection to black music, MTL rap’s best platform for new talent is probably the ever-entertaining Hip-Hop Karaoke. In recent years however, things have been looking up thanks to Dubstep finally convincing people to trade in their guitars for turntables – once they took that step, it was only a small step towards the mic.
Ella Grave comes from Montreal’s rich rave culture: a veteran of the Drum & Bass scene, she’s been honing her mic skills at parties including Asylum’s now legendary 3D Dubstep parties. On “Golpe,” she slows things down along with guest MC Lakoshe, rhyming in Spanish on a beat that splits the difference between cavernous Dub and Trap’s ubiquitous hi-hat heavy riddims. The song’s biggest draw is the near psychedelic hook where Ella’s singing soars above the track’s expansive production. Throw in a video featuring some underrated MTL bombing spots and you’ve got a tri-lingual track that reps for our town better than any other. Plus Ella’s way cooler than Grimes. — Son Raw
Between TDE, Odd Future, Stones Throw, Brainfeeder, and Hellfyre Club, LA rap has splintered in as many directions as dispensaries. In fact, the semi-legalization of marijuana might be the thing that most unites the camps. Kendrick might not inhale, but he’s not averse to singing a hook about the women, weed, and weather. Neither is Coolroy, who has been slowly sending smoke signals over the last several months, acquiring big-league management, playing the Daylight party, and combining the Fairfax smoked-out street ware vibe to Draked out melodies.
Gangsta rap might be the provenance of few under the age of 25, but “Hi” finds Coolroy proving that problems are always intractable, whether psychological or the dude pushing poison on the corner. When you can’t sleep, can’t stop the demons from flooding your head, and food offers little solace, there’s sometimes only one remedy. “Hi” isn’t only a state of being, it’s a very solid introduction. –Jeff Weiss
Tory Lanez (Toronto)
One of the fastest ways to seek musical success in the city of Toronto is to achieve greatness outside of it. Tory Lanez has been able to do just that in the past year with cosigns from DJ Drama and Sean Kingston and by building a following of Houstonians who appreciate how he’s blended into their sonic milieu. Tory adopted the H-Town’s signature chopped & screwed sound and has used it as the foundation for his blend of fast-then-slow raps and raw falsetto. Tory released his mixtape Conflicts Of My Soul last week, making the record that Drake would’ve created if he summered in Texas instead of Tennessee.
Conflicts Of My Soul has some highlights throughout, but Tory consistently suffers from stretching himself in too many directions to leave a lasting impression in any specific one. Singing on rap mixtapes isn’t newsworthy in 2013, but the amount of singing done here makes it more analogous to a Jeremih mixtape than a Drake one. And while a song like “Friends” is carried by an infectious sung hook, Tory’s falsetto pops up too often. Lanez also structured the mixtape to hang on a storyline of forbidden love and the perils of gang life, echoing Kendrick’s GKMC in an unflattering and clunky way. The tape could’ve done without the skits and leaves you feeling like Tory Lanez is trying to mimic the most popular musical trends of 2012 in order to lure new fans. The guest features are also unnecessary: Roscoe Dash and Kirko Bangz share a similar aesthetic, so their inclusion is redundant.
Conflicts of My Soul has a few gems on it, including “Fourteen and 40s”, “Fucking Awesome” and the DJ Mustard produced “Know What’s Up” – but the direction that Tory took with the tape left me wondering if a double mixtape with a full project dedicated to simply rapping or singing would have been a better choice. — Slava Pastuk
Bagir-Ba (New York City)
I came across Brooklyn producer Bagir-Ba while doing a random sweep of Bandcamp. At first, I found TheShun EP. In a brief 10 minutes it manages to stir an intriguing blend of funk, dancehall, rap and space-jazz-ish. Mixing genres like this isn’t the uncharted territory, but here it’s executed with originality and aplomb. The second track, “My Bidnis,” is particularly interesting; a contradiction of dancehall rap, sharp percussion and a light gauzy sample. More rapid-fire rap and hard drums follow on the next two tracks, then a left turn into a smooth finish. The EP is brief and memorable. I find myself returning to these tiny morsels of sound, still occasionally spotting new details in them.
There’s more good to be found elsewhere on his personal SoundCloud page, ranging from fully developed records to ideas in progress. “Thirty Two Five” is only a short bit of a wailing guitar solo, but I could listen to it on loop for an hour with a lighter in the air.
Lowriding Comets (1954)” is comprised of cosmic funk of the highest order; Dam-Funk would surely approve. This was a surprise, there is nothing else similar to it among Bagir-Ba’s other posted work.
“Wasting Away” could qualify as trip-hop, but it deserves better. There’s an interesting contradiction at work here. The vibe is baroque and haunting, but also glitchy.
Bagir-Ba is a talented producer, showing some common influences, original ideas, and an occasional knack for unusual juxtaposition. — Alex Piyevsky