Fifty Shades of Grey Poupon: RJ and the Sustainability of #MustardWave

The DJ Mustard protege stakes his claim as one of LA's best new rappers to watch.
By    July 7, 2015


Kyle Ellison is really out here too. 

How long until we reach peak Mustard? Sure, Dijon is still on speed dial at the majors for now, but cut-price condiments taste virtually the same on a budget; just ask Iggy Azalea. Ratchet is easy on the ear, but it’s easily mimicked too, and there are “How to make a DJ Mustard type beat” tutorials on YouTube with views in the tens of thousands. Let’s be real, the Los Angeles hitmaker was never going to get ten summers at the top without at least gracing his Yamaha with a second hand, and in the meantime rappers and producers are queuing up to ride what’s left of his wave.

Some of them are brand new; others have been around since before Rack City was gentrified. HBK Gang continues to grind away in the Bay. Larry on the beat is now making many, if not yet all of the hits. But while SoundCloud pages continue to soundtrack the whip, and local hits become low-key classics in underground clubs, the summer of 2015 still doesn’t have its My Krazy Life.

Released as it was, five years after YG’s signing to Def Jam, few expected My Krazy Life to hold together as well as it did and still does. It’s the increasingly rare example of both a fulfilled vision on a major label and a regional record on an international scale. More than anything though, it’s fun to listen to in a way most successful rap albums aren’t. The record’s surprise success should make it the blueprint for the ratchet LP; DJ Mustard’s answer to Dre’s The Chronic or Lex Luger’s Flockaveli. Signature sounds perfectly captured at the optimum time.

Mustard’s chart dominance will inevitably decline—you could argue that process has begun already, although you’d be premature. In the meantime, there’s still time for L.A’s lower and mid-tier rappers to springboard to success. If YG is a good-not-great rapper who made the right record at the right time, then you feel it wouldn’t take much for somebody else to follow in his footsteps. You don’t have to look far to find other guys churning out highly functional gangsta rap on the west coast, and YG and Mustard’s own Pu$haz Ink houses several rising stars – some of which even appear on My Krazy Life.

Take RJ, for instance, whose sequel to last year’s excellent O.M.M.I.O tape released in May, and collaborative tape with Choice earlier in the year, has seen him mount a challenge to be number one contender. “Ride Wit Me” set the wheels in motion, followed by the IAMSU collab “Get Rich” which cribs the bassline from Snoop’s “What’s My Name” to good effect. RJ better hope Dre’s people don’t talk to Gaye’s people. His latest single “Really Out Here Too” might be the best yet, offering older brother advice to young gangbangers (“Think they stop making guns when they made your strap?”) and a hook worthy of your squad’s next theme song.

Like YG, RJ doesn’t present himself as the rap superstar he’s not, but instead he’s your all-singing, all-rapping gangster next door. His songs are often, even mostly about money, but generally it’s the pursuit rather than an excess of it. They’re also rife with handclaps and shit talk, but you knew that already. RJ isn’t about to go verse-for-verse with Vince Staples, but he’s an adept all-rounder with a knack for melody. That counts for something. Fellow Mustard beneficiaries Joe Moses, Skeme and AD turn up to rap when there’s rapping to be done, but O.M.M.I.O 2 is at its best when RJ is occupying the spaces between hook and verse.

The tape’s 22 songs fly by like summer weekends, the longest clocking at just three and a half minutes. A handful you might cling on to—for a while, at least—the rest will likely have blurred together come fall. It hardly matters; this music wasn’t made to be timeless, it’s made for today’s drive across town and tonight’s party playlist.

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