If gangsta music has been Baton Rouge’s chief export since well before No Limit set up a satellite studio on Corporate Drive, less discussed has been the obsession with rapping ass rapping. If New Orleans has a more party-friendly bounce that translates better internationally, Baton Rouge is far more insular and implicitly technical. The thick drawl might disguise the complexity, but it’s almost unthinkable to consider a rapper making it out the mud without being expected to spit as though he carried a crowbar, an Uzi, and some crawfish.
Before Kevin Gates cyphered at the BET Awards, he presented them with DJ Ya Boy Earl and Lil Snupe and Mista Cain (a Godfather type figure in BR). Snupe later signed to Dreamchasers, run by the Philly artist who somehow managed to disgrace himself by standing up for old school values and the importance of rapping like a bejeweled wolf trying to blow down a brick colonial house in Calabasas. Boosie and Webbie can rap so well that Young Thug, the greatest technical rapper of all-time to never be called a “technical rapper,” dedicated songs to them in the past year. And when he isn’t re-evaluating the terms of familial propriety, Kevin Gates is essentially the trap Ghostface.
So it’s no surprise that the latest class of Baton Rouge rap stars fall firmly into that tradition of sending Joey Badass fans into Facebook rants — except that their music is more interesting than anyone with the ability to rap over the “Tried by 12” beat. I could live with the anti-Lil Yachty rants, if the old heads complaints weren’t purely over aesthetics and Yachty’s lack of interest in reading the Ego Trip Book of Lists (as great as it is). You can’t go at Yachty’s throat (and by proxy the South) when your city produced Mims. Those are the rules.
This is Spitta, who shares his name with the Crescent City stoner — a sobriquet rooted in the art of the rapping. Even though Ice-T wouldn’t approve, Spitta raps about accidentally killing eagles with errant gunfire, preferring on-the-ground killings to drive-bys, and serving beef like 5 Guys. The latter punchline could’ve come from a Smack DVD. The auto-tune gives it a more contemporary feel, but this is inherently well-rapped goon music, the soundtrack to lead pipe snuffing’s and narcotics exchanges.
In Baton Rouge, street credibility continues to reign supreme, so it’s unsurprising that Spitta’s popularity has soared since he got back out on the streets. He’d been incarcerated for a parole violation, which somehow occurred when he was visiting his P.O. Cops smelled weed in the car, searched it, and found a few grams and a scale. His latest tape, last month’s Shottas 2, hits in the same vein as a Baton Rouge version of Rozay or Jeezy, bombastic murder music that jams both sinister and smooth.
NBA Youngboy is 16, barely old enough to be driving the cars that he’s in and certainly not old enough to be clutching the semi-automatics seen everywhere. He’s at the age that Boosie was in the Youngest of Da Camp era and even though their voices are dissimilar (because no one except maybe Kodak and DB Tha General can convincingly sound like Boosie), the sense of teenage recklessness and aggression remains. You can hear the influence of GBE and Chicago, a little bit of Future in the shifting flow, but there’s something inherently Baton Rouge about it. It could just be the accent or the humidity that seems to creep over the camera lens, the houses practically decomposing in the oppressive heat.
Youngboy’s clutching guns next to puppies, which on some level distills everything. He should probably be a Junior in high school, but the Baton Rouge is basically City of God. Go across the tracks on any given schoolday and class is in session. “What I was taught” tells you what was learned.
In the comment sections of this video, someone goes in on Scotty Cain for using auto-tune. That’s Baton Rouge, unorthodox and purist at the same time. After all, the video is called “Real Shit.” This might be my favorite of everything in this post. There’s hints of Montana of 300, Durk, Gates and 21 Savage. Part of the Cain Muzik mafia, Scotty was sitting through a concrete sabbatical when I wrote about him last summer.
Over the last few months, he’s been dropping videos at a steady clip, regaining his momentum by rapping very well and showing unusual elegance in holding stacks to his ear in videos. There’s rumors of a beef between Youngboy and Scotty and I don’t have the slightest clue if it’s true. Earlier this year, they collaborated on “Homicide,” where they ride around with rifles and Scream masks. They have the chemistry of a young Boosie and Webbie and you could see them producing something worthy of Ghetto Stories or at least Gangsta Muzik.
As much as it feels like BR has been recently visited by biblical plagues of violence, flooding, and police brutality, this is really nothing new. Like the problems themselves, the music seems simple but is really deceptively complex. No solution in sight, homicides sky-high, and the artists themselves are caught in the cycle, perpetually trapped between the truth and the penitentiary.