The first and only time I met C-San was outside of a show at Club Nokia in Downtown LA. I can’t remember what show it was or very much about the encounter, other than he was handing out CDs. Because I am compulsorily mandated to accept free things, I accepted it and popped the disc into my car stereo on the way home. I remember being impressed with both the effort and music. LA isn’t the sort of city where people bombard you with physical mixtapes and there’s no city on earth where you ever expect them to be more than halfway decent. But it was.

Maybe it wasn’t enough to make me to write a blog post about it or search him out and anoint him as “next” but it was enough to make me remember his name. And when your e-mail inbox looks like the Battle of the Bulge, it’s hard to remember all the rappers who won’t be around next year. It’s been three or four years since I first heard C-San, but I still occasionally check for his music. He’s popped up on tracks with Casey Veggies, Overdoz, and the guys from U-N-I. But he’s never really broken out in a way that matches his contemporaries. All this time, I’ve been hoping he would, just because everyone is about “the grind,” but you relate to it more when you’ve seen the hunger in someone’s eyes on a cold night, dealing with disinterested responses from people who are probably going to go home and listen to something inferior.

This is a long way to say that few things made me happier to watch the video for the Inglewood rapper’s “True Achiever.” For one, it’s one of the most overlooked songs and videos from last year. C-San has matured from a young wiry kid hoping that someone would give him a shot, to someone willing to draw up the blueprint, command a team, and presumably rob someone blind. As 2Pac once said: Inglewood….always up to no good. The rapping is confident and aggressive without veering into over-the-top theatrics. He’s managed to sustain the same hunger without adapting to whatever current sound is hot.

If anything, it’s closest to what TDE is doing. Gangsta rap with a slight political tilt over beats that upend the traditional G-Funk and minor piano combinations that led to stasis by the middle of the last decade. There are boxers knocking each other out in black and white, atomic bombs going off, and clips from Dragon Ball Z. Chris Sanford says he’s been doing this since he was a toddler when 2Pac dropped 2Pacalypse Now and since Luda had the afro. But the music itself lets you know how many hours have been clocked in. C-San’s last mixtape, True Achiever, dropped last July. You can download it below, but I’m more interested to hear what he does next. In the meantime, these ski mask sketches should suffice.

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