Will Hagle checks the drawers of all of his friends’ kitchens to see if they have extra packets of sweet and sour.
Ketchy the Great, the freewheeling wild-card of The Stinc Team, is currently being held without bail in L.A. County jail. The burglary-related charges are enhanced by the District Attorney’s specious allegation that their crew is an organized gang. Despite the tragic circumstances surround its release, his latest Free Sauce, is one of the better projects to be assembled from a loose collection of tracks recorded prior to an artist’s incarceration.
Across 12 tracks that feature the best of his local peers (Greedo, Shoreline Mafia, Desto Dubb), Ketchy talks about drugs, robbery, girls, money, imprisoned friends, and life over dark and foreboding production. A simple formula but always effective.
As a solo artist, Ketchy’s biggest achievement has been “If I Go Broke,” which proved that his manic energy and gravelly roar could sustain an entire track on its own. (“Spaceship” proved that he could steal a track surrounded by the some of the most gifted in the city). For the “If I Go Broke” video, Ketchy company snuck onto a football and soccer field without permission, included the footage of a football coach lecturing them on the new for permits, and instead brought out girls to twerk and play soccer. A legendary finesse.
One of the highlights of Free Sauce is the Ron-Ron produced sequel “If I Go Broke pt. 2,” which subverts the original with a different beat and the amplified fury of 03 Greedo (free him too). Ketchy’s a barking lunatic, his voice a serrated pitbull attack reminiscent of DMX in his prime. Greedo’s nimble nasal chirp offers a perfect counter-balance. An instant anthem that reminds the city of how much we’re missing.
Throughout Free Sauce, Ketchy experiments with different flows — always a live wire but deceptively agile and dangerously melodic. It’s polished and well-constructed, a substantial triumph for an artist who had heretofore been considered a supporting player (even though those in the know had been waiting on a Ketchy solo album for years) In live shows and on posse cuts, Ketchy melded the lunacy of ODB with the virtuosity of Keak da Sneak, offering a crucial heart and energy to the Stinc Team. If Drakeo is quiet, sinister, and strange, and Ralfy the Plug is the more traditional technical rapper, Ketchy is the trump card up the sleeve. The one that can turn any track to 12.
Drakeo coined the sub-genre “Nervous Music,” and there’s a song on here with that title. It’s descended from jerk and hyphy, filled with wild lingo and the anxiety induced by driving around in a $100,000 car in the enemy’s hood. Judging from his performance on here, Ketchy was on the verge of becoming one of LA’s biggest stars — an oversized personality with equal parts menace and humor. And quiet as kept, he was one of the best dancers from the jerkin’ era.
Of course, any hope for hearing Ketchy’s further artistic development on record, has been unjustly delayed. Nonetheless, Free Sauce demonstrates just how great Ketchy might be when he finally comes home. He’s the sort of singular talent who couldn’t even go broke if he tried.