Balance & Options: The LA Rap Column, March 2018

Balance & Options, the LA Rap column, returns with words on Greedo, Yung Pinch, and more.
By    March 22, 2018

SEBASTIAN SLAP doesn’t mean to be rude. 

03 Greedo“Substance (Prod. Beatboy & ThankYouFizzle)”

In Greedo’s original non-Vichy LA Weekly interview he claimed to make “emo music for gangbangers.” At the time, I wasn’t familiar enough to understand it. Now, it’s the only thing that comes to mind when describing the sorrowful yet somehow joyous wails about the atruggles he’s endured.

Subtle bongo drums and sedated guitar riffs courtesy of Beatboy & ThankYouFizzle give “Substance” the feel of pain music that you’d hear in an infomercial for Caribbean tourism. Dig deeper and you realize the utopia is metaphorical and only accessible by romance, narcotics, or some combination of the two.

The beauty of Greedo is that he keeps you guessing. On “Substance,” it’s unclear whether he’s head over heels infatuated or waylaid on a week long drug binge. You can hear traces of the one-time Greedy Giddy who dropped the Bipolar tapes. The less you try to understand, the more it makes sense. The Wolf Of Grape Street had many high points, but for me, no song encapsulates the many aspects of 03 Greedo’s versatile artistry better than “Substance.”

Yung Pinch“Sail Away (Prod. Charlie Handsome & Wheezy)”

Huntington Beach’s Yung Pinch usually isn’t the first name that you consider when you think about “new LA rap,” but you can’t ignore the massively diverse fanbase he’s built over the last 18 months. Light-hearted enough for the mainstream and weird enough for the underground, Pinch has garnered support in almost every pocket of hip hop fandom.

“Sail Away” is written with the scatterbrained anxiety familiar to anyone trying to piece their life together. Wielding hypnotic, enervated melodies, Yung Pinch sporadically switches from jewelry talk, to managing fame and relationships. He spends much of the song wishing he had time to do things, like run away with a girl he’s losing touch with.

Its message teeters between corny and touching, but Pinch’s innocence makes it easy to zero in on the songs energy rather than the lyrical specificity. Full of high-pitched vocals and unabashed sentimentality, this isn’t music for everyone, but Pinch’s vulnerability speaks to kids and young adults looking for a hip hop artist who isn’t so eternally cool that you can’t relate. Where in LA rap does a soft-spoken, stringy haired kid from Huntington Beach fit in? That’s what’s remarkable about it, though. He doesn’t fit in, and it’s much better for it.


Despite his gleaming teeth and diamond encrusted pinky ring, the StincTeam’s Saysothemac flies below the average LA rap fan’s radar. His nonchalant attitude and delivery on “Snakes” makes it seem like he’s only taking rap half-serious; like he can’t really give it his all or he’ll sacrifice the energy he needs to hustle.

He makes quick and descriptive work here, breaking down the art of pimping reminiscent of Too $hort. “Pay me pay me baby Ima P/ Ima bleed her feet seven days of the week.” Sinister, but that’s the work ethic synonymous with the StincTeam, both in the streets and the studio.

Like the rest of The StincTeam, there’s a nervous, paranoid aspect to Sayso. Even with a bond as close as the one between he and his teammates, he can never be sure of who to trust, saying, “I had a dream that all my n****s done turned on me,” as he gestures to the slew of associates in the background.

It’s pockets of sobering truth like this that make SaysoTheMac and The StincTeam a deceptively wise squad; they remind us that the only way to stay ahead is by constantly watching your back.

Warm Brew“Same Page (Feat. Niko G4) (Prod. Polyester The Saint & Al B Smoov)”

Amidst all of the contemporary, experimental music being made in LA, there are a number of artists preserving the sound and vibe that sparked the West Coast’s reign as a dominant force in hip hop. Warm Brew and Niko G4 rank among the top-tier of those names.

This is their first time linking up, and immediately it becomes apparent why Dom Kennedy decided to build his label around these young talents. The trio of rappers from Santa Monica and Venice have a soulful and positive approach to songcraft, exhuming inspiration from the classic era of G-Funk. Niko G4 boasts one of LA rap’s more distinct sounds: a built in sense of authenticity thanks to his naturally deep voice and a delivery so refined and crisp that it sounds imported from the 1990s and induces immediate head nods.

“Same Page” is an upbeat, summery record, with more attention paid to the song’s energy than its actual lyrical content. The words come simple without being recycled: tales of beer drinking, smoking weed, and pushing old school cars. It’s as California as surfing, skating, or sunscreen.

Kalan.frfr“About Us (Prod. WestKillinIt)”

From Nate Dogg, to Ty$ to Tee FLii, the LA area has bred some of hip hop’s finest acts that tiptoe between singing and spitting. While 03 Greedo deservedly gets the bulk of the attention in that subgenre right now, another up and comer that can’t be ignored is Kalan.frfr.

More singer than rapper, his vocal range vacillates from high to “holy shit that’s a crazy note,” but his beat selection is what keeps him in the conversation of LA rap. His diverse subject matter ranges from heartfelt love songs to anthems felt by trappers. “About Us” is a sorrowful breakup ballad over a thunderous instrumental equipped with guitar, flutes, and addictive hi hats provided by WestKillinIt.

Kalan.frfr’s unwavering candor is what makes this song so enticing. He owns up to cheating, and although he knows he probably doesn’t deserve another opportunity, he’s not accepting defeat. Alone, on a dimly lit porch, he explains the difficulty of balancing the responsibilities that come with a relationship to a woman and the relationship he has with hustling.

His ability to hit a falsetto note without sounding whiny or overly auto-tuned reveals a talent that could be on the radio right now. He can simultaneously pour his heart out while maintaining the ruggedness that comes with being in hip hop, similar to what Future has been able to do for so many years.

With a Rich The Kid collaboration already on his resumé and a G Perico feature rumored to be on the way, Kalan.frfr seems destined for commercial success.

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