September 30, 2016

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We’ll remember this era of West Coast rap as a second Golden Age. In 2016, Kendrick turned Untitled, Mastered into the best recycling project since the Watts Towers. YG dropped an unimpeachable classic that captured the vintage feel of 90s G-Funk but modernized it with the contemporary bounce and political fear and loathing. Vince Staples wrote a concept album about a suicidal rap star that wielded the same rat-in-the-cage intensity that made Billy Corgan go bald.

Schoolboy Q made another opiated gangsta rap minor opus. RJ continues to make excellent function music more cerebral than it initially seems. Problem and DJ Quik made sophisticated funk rap for blunt cruises down Rosecrans, both imagined and real. Isaiah Rashad is in the running for best LA transplant since Jordan Clarkson. While Open Mike Eagle remains the rap game James Baldwin. Those are just a few that readily come to mind.

This Friday brings two more additions. The first one, fated to get the brunt of attention, is Mustard’s Cold Summer, in which the ratchet emperor turned Robin S torchbearer returns to his roots and drops a tape with YG, Ty Dolla Sign, RJ, Nipsey Hussle, and others. I haven’t spent enough time with it to make a definitive call, but on a cursory listen, it does what it’s supposed to do: split the difference between club bangers and ride-around-shining anthems. If nothing else, there is a song with YG and Young Thug, which proves that Jim Morrison was wrong and you can petition the lord with prayer.

The other tape comes from G Perico, who you might remember from my post a few months earlier.┬áHe’s the subject of my next LA Weekly column, which drops Wednesday, so I’ll spare the redundancies. His latest project, Shit Don’t Stop, is one of those projects that feels like an instant street rap classic. You can trace a direct lineage from Quik and Too Short, who spent his childhood years in South Central before defining Oakland rap. Like the late Eric Wright, Perico raps with a permanent sneer in his voice.

His themes rarely expand beyond getting money, pimping, and gang banging, but the narratives and specificity reveal a subtly excellent writer. A song like “Million Dollar Mission” has the sort of tension, and minor details that you’d expect to find from a top tier screenwriter. Drugs raids, trips to the station, the blue suede Pumas.

“Streets Don’t Love Us” has the death-in-the-air paranoia that comes from someone raised on 111th and San Pedro, Broadway Gangsta Crips, a set always at war, the fears of a rising star who got shot in front of his studio seven months ago. Or for the fates of 72 of his closest homies that just got swept up in a federal indictment. This is a young dude spitting old street wisdom, forced too early to grapple with too much trauma. “I’m getting rich to live/because Lil Greg never did/he was murdered as a kid.” Blunt lines that carry big weight.

It’s one of those albums that reminds you why you fell in love with gangsta rap in the first place. Yeah, there’s the bravado and cool, the motivation to get money at all costs, but there’s also the sense of consequences, the power of rap music to explain context and circumstance, life and death, the traps of poverty and the desire to make it out alive. Life goes on, so it goes, shit don’t stop. Hopefully.

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