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Harold Bingo has a deep Rolodex of Disney World bartenders.
To the average rap listener, Orlando isn’t the sort of location that’s seen as a wellspring of new talent. Smilez and Southstar had some joints and there was that moment when it seemed like Kaiydo was gonna be a bonafide THING but that’s about it, right?
Orlando has been typically known as a hotbed for country acts and Mickey Mouse boy bands. Thanks to disgraced pop impresario Lou Pearlman, the most famous Orlando rap song up until recently might have been LFO’s “Summer Girls.” You know, the one about liking girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch. Don’t play cool on this one.
However, this narrative ignores the sunshine-noir element that courses throughout the state. The sort of energy that a movie like Spring Breakers only had the ability to vaguely gesture towards. From a rap standpoint, Orlando has always stood in the considerable shadow of Miami but thanks to the following artists, this city is finally making a name for themselves.
The artists on this list shed light on the darker underbelly of the region and let listeners know that there is more to this city than the Epcot Center and 1990’s Orlando Magic nostalgia. Each is well worth a listen.
Woop Lingo and Woop Nation are full of enduring bangers, the type of songs you can hear infinity times and never tire of. 2014 me is forever grateful for these classics. His ear for beats and knack for bars that stick to the brain made him an immediate favorite.
His connection with Peewee Longway led to a rumored collaboration project (“Fool” is a classic in its own right) and Migos/Kevin Gates were jumping on remixes. He seemed on the cusp and 2015’s IDGAF tape cemented him as someone to look out for. Then … the missile charge.
He’s since come home after a 2 1/2 year sentence and his first new release allowed him to pick up right where he left off. 30 Months features a number of songs that slot in perfectly with his pre-jail material. “Backstreet Shawty” and “Peek Out” have gotten videos and are worthy additions to his canon.
But “The Boogey Man” and “Laser Beams” are the true standouts. It’s music in the key of Gunplay. He may not achieve peak Don Logan levels of brilliance and yet the production choices and delivery belie the vivid writing. “Enjoy My Couch” flips the “welcome to my house, enjoy my couch” conceit into a full fledged vent session. He’s a man of multitudes.
The song that initially caught my ear from Poody (LBP stands for Light Pole Baby) is “Early Bird.” For all the carping about modern rap’s lack of storytelling, “Early Bird” functions as a slight variation on the “It Was a Good Day” formula. He posts up, gets paid and ducks out before the cops have a chance to swoop in.
“Fresh Out Da Dentist” sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s riding bicycles through convenience stores and buying up Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Typical child prodigy behavior. He possesses a wizened beyond his years quality that reminds me of early Kodak Black without sounding derivative.
While he’s subject to the same comparisons that dogged GlokkNine, all of these rappers are bringing their own styles to the table. Poody’s recent tape Streetz Callin shows that he’s here to stay. He flips through topics and production choices with ease & even manages to stick the landing on a 2018 “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” remake. In the words of the man himself, “They gon’ call me Kodak but fuck it, I don’t even care.”
GlokkNine’s rise is well chronicled and his music has been harder and harder to avoid as his name grows. It remains to be seen if the Cash Money signing will lead to anything fruitful (I’m being kind). I will use this space to get off a few other thoughts off, though. For starters, Bloodshells Revenge rightfully received its flowers but Loyalty Kill Love is rapidly gaining in stature.
Secondly, It’s hard to deny the raw power of “Crayola” or “10 Percent,” but “Fiesta” has usurped both for me. In a year where rappers seem increasingly willing to draw on production that blurs the lines of geographical affiliation, this song stands out as being particularly fun. Listening to it without wanting to dance is nigh impossible. Anyways, lets hope that 2019 brings us more GlokkNine and Birdman avoids the urge to dance all up in his videos (and the whole, uh, never paying artists thing).
I’ll be the first to admit that it is a slight cheat to include Melly on an Orlando list but Gifford is an hour and change away so hopefully the ten people who will read this are able to make peace with this slight bending of the rules. Melly is especially notable in the age of Young Thug juniors because of his willingness to swing for the fences with ballads that offer a level of vulnerability that other artists are simply unable (or even unwilling) to match.
“Murder On My Mind” (and its video) and “Mind On My Murder” are some of the most thoughtful and gut wrenching rap songs of 2018. The two songs approach an accidental shooting from the perspective of the shooter and the victim. It’s music designed to silence the type of person who believes that street rappers are incapable of top tier concept tracks. If you listen to them and you feel nothing, you’re a monster & I don’t know what to tell you.
I Am You is one of the year’s best rap projects and functions in the same way. Melly combines a gift for melody with a willingness to dig deeper to create music that truly sticks to the ribs. If he’s capable of this type of music at the age of 19, the sky’s the limit.
O-Town Marco landed on my radar with last year’s Marco SZN. He’s Los Angeles by way of Orlando and it shows in the music. There’s production on Marco SZN that wouldn’t be out of place on a TDE project and he leans into the R&B sounds of the moment. You get the feeling he listens to a fair amount of Kendrick Lamar and SZA.
His 2018 output suggests that he’s developed a certain sense of self awareness about his own career. “Jealous” features some brutally honest rapping (“I cannot lie, I was jealous then I told myself to get it”) and Marco is seen placing flowers on his own grave. “Creepers” combines the aforementioned R&B sensibilities with animated rapping to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Bonus points for rapping in front of the Kopper Keg Liquor on Glendale. (I bought booze there once!)