Last week was a long week for various reasons. Rap and reefer helped. The Cali cure is generally best. Below are some of the latest offerings from L.A. rappers I played during that time. It’s a markedly mixed bag, comprised of veterans, gangsters, underground O.G.s, transplants, art rappers, and any combination of them all. Listen, read if you’re so inclined, and send me an ounce in the mail if you know my address. The doobie ashtray is almost empty.
Snoop Dogg is as affable and chronically candid as he is inscrutable. If you grew up on west coast rap, hearing his voice might fill you with the same warmth you feel when speaking to your favorite uncle. Yet, much like that uncle, his motives are often a mystery. Snoop went from Death Row to No Limit; he went to Jamaica, temporarily changed his name to Snoop Lion, and made a reggae record; then he began rapping again before linking up with Dam-Funk. More recently, he did that regrettable song with the “Gangnam Style” guy. So it goes when you measure time in blunts smoked.
Anyway, Tray Deee is free and thus Tha Eastsidaz are back. The reason is evident — uncle Snoop has never left his homies in the lurch.
Together again with Tray Deee and Goldie Loc, Snoop’s linked up with DatPiff and DJ Drama (read: thug Fat Man Scoop) for the fourth installment of That’s My Work. As with previous mixtapes in the series, this runs a little long. Aside from that, it’s perfect for THC addled drives down PCH. The rhymes are polished like the ragtop ’64. The tropes are tried, true, and undeniably G. The parking lot must be pimped and even the bottom girls can’t be trusted. The spirit of Nate Dogg watches from above. With production from left coast stalwarts like Fredwreck and Battlecat, beats as funky as an old batch of collard greens knock like rubber Chuck soles to the dome. Play this around your house long enough and your mom might start wearing a blue rag on her left side.
MC Eiht should’ve been at the Grammys. Kendrick was snubbed, but the man responsible for the quasi-portmanteau “Geah” was wronged two times. Ideally his appearance on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City triggered a sales spike for his bulletproof back catalogue. If not, We Come Strapped and Death Threatz remain irremovable from the west coast canon.
The latest from one of Compton’s finest is “Shut ‘Em Down,” which will appear on Eiht’s forthcoming album Which Way Iz West. The Brenk Sinatra produced beat bangs like an aggressive B and E, the persistent clink reminiscent of cocked steel and the slam of prison bars. It’s as ominous as shots and sirens ringing out on Rosecrans.
As far as rhymes go, The Outlawz don’t exactly channel the spirit of Pac. Still, they are more than capable rappers who do their best to ensure white people leave them alone. Thankfully, Eiht handles the anchor leg. The years haven’t dulled his delivery. His voice remains as commanding as ever, cutting through the beat as he relays the graceful rhymes only afforded to O.G.s. The pistol is still tucked, the fifth shall be pleaded. Geah.
Dilated Peoples are one of the best ‘feel good’ rap groups the L.A. underground birthed; Jurassic 5 with an edge, fewer members, and (slightly) less backpacker rhetoric. After eight years and countless Instagram photos, they’re back. I was 16 when 2006’s 20/20 dropped, so I’m inclined to say it’s one of the best Dilated albums you can buy today. Then again, it’s been some years since I’ve revisited and hindsight isn’t always in focus. Regardless, my expectations for Directors of Photography (out 8/12 via Rhymesayers) are higher than Alchemist.
Their single “Show Me the Way” continues to capitalize on the stoned righteousness of their previous work. With Aloe Blacc on the hook, Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience trade platitudinous bars, connecting the dots between their rise and their current state of affairs. Evidence brings the Mary Jane metaphors from the beach chair and Iriscience remains committed to illumination of all kinds — no Ab-Soul. Jake One’s beat bumps, the undercurrent of soul of the same MPC stock that made the Kanye produced “This Way” a radio smash in ’04.
If this single and the DJ Premier produced “Good As Gone” are any indication, Directors of Photography will once again bring pictures developed in Venice basements to the spotlight. Ideally they will be in focus in all the right places.
Dre put Snoop on “Deep Cover.” Snoop got the Dogg Pound on The Chronic. Y.G. signing Slim 400 to Pushaz Ink is birthright, g-code writ from Bompton to the LBC. Slim’s Pushaz Ink debut, the aptly titled Keepin’ It 400, isn’t anywhere near the caliber of My Krazy Life. But it didn’t have major label backing and probably wasn’t labored over extensively. As with most mixtapes, not all 17 tracks are essential. Still, Slim displays aggressive élan and promise. The subject matter is predictable – guns, drugs, bitches, the block, banging, etc. — but his voice is engaging and his flow ranks above the west coast gangster rappers I pass on when skimming World Star.
The success of L.A. gangster rap records will forever be contingent, at least to some degree, on the quality of production. Keepin’ It 400 is no different. The obligatory Mustard track with fellow Ink member TeeFlii is actually one of the weakest cuts on the record. It’s a lesser Mustard, the softest “blue steel” in his Zoolander-esque oeuvre. The rest of the production is reminiscent of Mustard’s rubbery bounce, but the nods to the g-funk cannon make for better beats (see the Kurupt and Daz reverent “Hoe’n In Her”).
For now, Slim 400 remains less polished than his partner. If he continues to develop as a rapper, moves away from or at least expands the Mustard formula, he may have a viable career as Y.G.’s protégé.
If A&Rs knew what they were doing, Azizi Gibson would’ve been a crossover star last year. He makes music for the turn-up that’s sonically interesting and commercially salable. He’s Schoolboy Q sans ‘gangsta,’ wielding a smoother voice over production that smacks of the beat scene.
His Backwards Books is the most cohesive distillation of the above aesthetic. The EP’s nine tracks are stitched together by drugs, manga, and debauched nights. It begs for anime music videos. Standouts include the blaspheming “Smoking With the Gods,” the blithe and blunted “Rolling Stoned,” and the emotive and journalistic “Backwards Books.” Brainfeeder remains the label, but here Azzi proves he could his talents elsewhere if he chose.
I premiered milo’s video Up From Sloth over at LA Weekly last week. Sue me for self-promo and double posting, chastise me because milo is technically from Chicago and only just moved to L.A. Or maybe just watch this video of the young Hellfyre Club upstart as he urinates all over the art rap game with raucous abandon. There are snippets of three incisive, interesting tracks with beats that beg to be played in full. These songs will appear on his forthcoming album, a toothpaste suburb, which is due out September 23rd. I imagine it will be one of my favorite records this year, thus I’m saving more words for later and indulging in more self promo in hopes that you’ll check milo’s work here and here.