Balance & Options: The LA Rap Column, February 2018

Introducing POW's new LA rap column, a monthly dive into the city's best new artists.
By    February 14, 2018

SEBASTIAN SLAP doesn’t need a winter.

From any vantage point, LA rap is amidst its finest run since Suge Knight told rappers to come to Death Row. We’ve always produced prominent figures, but TDE, YG, Earl, Tyler, Vince Staples and more have dramatically expanded the boundaries of what an LA rapper can be — re-defining the hip-hop world both individually and through their broader movements.

At the moment, it’s not hard to feel the new wave cresting in the city among The Stinc Team, Shoreline Mafia, 03 Greedo, G Perico and many more. The word “Renaissance” feels almost too trite describe something so fresh and new. In this Cali-Is-Active state, artists have both evolved the previous template, but simultaneously exist in a tradition extending back decades.

This column doesn’t plan to feature the names you might usually associate with LA. Instead, it’ll be largely comprised of artists and songs that are setting the tone for the city’s culture and re-working the landscape of contemporary West Coast hip hop. LA, as it appears now, not in the rear view.

Shoreline Mafia“Spaceship (Feat. The StincTeam) (Prod. Ron-Ron, JOOG, & BeatBoy)”

Shoreline Mafia and The StincTeam are quintessential examples of artists internalizing the long list of LA legends that came before them and then immediately setting out to be totally different. The song and video for “Spaceship” are lawless and sinister and psychedelic. If the lean was spiked with acid too.

Ketchy The Great (StincTeam) steals the show with ODB energy and a blunt scarred rasp. His eyes look ready to bulge out of his skull as he growls the hook. Each team follows with 8-bar verses on the HitMob (Ron-Ron, JOOG, and BeatBoy) produced beat. Thunderous 808s and ingeniously arranged hi-hats merge trap and nervous music. Despite the short verses, each artist conveys an intergalactic singularity, or whatever that means in this instance.

Fenix & OhGeesy rely more on their cool demeanor than pure flash. Ralfy The Plug drips non-stop, bouncing his jewelry to the rhythm. Rob Vicious bursts onto the screen, dreads swinging and aggressively roaring. While Good Finesse & Young Bull are more unruffled, with their nonchalance being offset by the fervor of the others. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s that much better for it.

Drakeo The Ruler“Musty (Remix) (Prod. Ron-Ron)”

Following the triumphant Cold Devil, Drakeo The Ruler’s sole release in January was a remix to Shoreline Mafia’s 2017 hit “Musty,” which is approaching 10 million views on YouTube. The record was already an underground classic, which is probably why Drakeo chose to do it—a challenge for an artist who relishes defeating impossible odds.

In true Drakeo fashion, he starts the song with another monologue, barely audible as he whispers a flurry of intricate boasts: “Grim reaper street sweeper, feet Neiman speak to me/ Codeine and adderall, Bally bags and Talibans/ I coulda went to Alcatraz, n****s always talkin’ bad.”  Every thought in his head mudwalks onto the beat.

A minute of slurred brilliant raps ensue. It’s hard to imagine someone rapping that fast without breaking a sweat, but that’s just The Ruler—perfectly fitting words into every off-kilter pocket, before ending things with a rant that couldn’t be classified as either rap or spoken word. He revels in the villainous persona, cackling sinister lines like “N****s be havin’ all them super powers but can’t bring they homies back from the dead, I don’t understand it.”

He needs to come home soon.

Cozz“Questions (prod. Soul Professa)”

The product of South Central’s Crenshaw District has been gaining notoriety since signing to J Cole’s Dreamville Records back in 2014, but this year seems to be the one that may finally launch him into the mainstream.

Aimed at America’s justice system, “Questions” finds Cozz searching to describe the frustration pent up inside him after dealing with police brutality for two and a half decades

“He gon’ teach your ass a lesson, but ain’t gon’ learn with ya,” he says with his head hanging out the driver’s side of a cop car. The video is a cinematic demonstration of being a young black male in South Central forced to deal with the police — except that the script is flipped. Instead of being harassed for smoking or getting tazed while running away, he’s the one hounding the uniformed officers, using his weapons first and asking questions later. It’s one of the most powerful videos in some time—from a rapper whose power figures to keep growing.

AzChike“Burn Rubber Again (Feat. Almighty Suspect & Panda Badazz) (Prod. LowTheGreat)”

This track blew up this month long with Instagram and Twitter support coming from a ton of people, including rappers Da$h and YBN Nahmir. Add in an impressive video from Voice2Hard, and AzChike has himself a hit record in “Burn Rubber Again.”

The LowTheGreat produced song is a reworking of Too Short’s “Burn Rubber.” The HitMob producer gives the beat a facelift with cleverly veiled piano keys and a restructured bassline that goes 10x harder than the original beat.

AzChike leads the way on the track with a snarl and viciousness, begging anybody to challenge him. He starts the song saying, “He a opp what the fuck I’m gon’ fight for/ Shed light on your block with this light pole,” and from that point on things only heat up.

Panda Badazz and Almighty Suspect follow with dynamic verses—each bringing a savage energy. While most of their lyrics are gun-related, their highly-creative descriptions make you forget that they’re all talking about essentially the same thing.

AzChike has hinted at collaborations with DJ Mustard in the works, so this may be the first of many hits this year.

Lil Dubb Kill Aka The Pimp Pimp P“P Talk (Prod. Fizzle)”

If you’re even the slightest bit invested in LA’s underground rap scene, this record was practically unavoidable. “P-Talk” is Lil Dub Kill’s first ever song, and it went viral thanks to his eccentric social media antics.

On a daily basis, his Instagram is flooded with selfie videos of him in the Jordan Downs projects shouting out “It’s Regular,” hilariously stretching out the last word in a way that has spread all over the city.

While some laugh at the passion that Dubb brings on this track, none of this is a joke to the young Watts native. He’s true to himself and filled with emotion in every bar. Practically in tears before the beat even drops, The Pimp Pimp P (Dubb’s online persona) proclaims his realness at the top of his lungs saying, “I’m never slackin, I’m never lackin/ I’ll cry on this motherfucking beat n***a.”

The simple lyrics of “P-Talk” are greatly overpowered by the high-intensity delivery of Lil Dubb Kill, and the song has become a legitimate hit being played at clubs and shows all over the city. It’s blown up over the last month and one of 2017’s first true organic rap anthems.

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