The Killing Season: 03 Greedo and DJ Mustard’s Still Summer in the Projects

Harold Bingo goes in on the Grape Street legend and the ratchet innovator's collaborative project.
By    April 23, 2019

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Harold Bingo paid the cost to go half on a baby.

Still Summer in the Projects is the first big moment since Greedo’s imprisonment. While many of Greedo’s songs rely on lesser known west coast producers like Young L, RonRon and even his own beats, DJ Mustard is one of the first name-brand beatmakers that Greedo has been able to align himself with (Cardo, Mike Will and Hit-Boy are also rumored to have Greedo music in the pipeline). His rise has been swift, as Greedo alludes to the period of time that the two projects serve as bookends for (“bailed out back in 2016, 2018, now I’m the king”).

If you were looking to explain Greedo’s appeal to someone who had never heard a single song, “Getting Ready” would be a perfect place to start. His deep and abiding love for women has always been evident in his work (“I’m from where some bitches be more gangsta than these n***** is”) but nowhere is it more obvious than on this song. He should be worried about the prison sentence that he is about to start but instead, he’s thinking about what life will be like for his wife in his absence. He’s in his final days of freedom but all he cares about is giving his wife an anthem to get ready to while he’s gone. Greedo’s one of the few artists who can elicit this type of profound sadness, while also making you nod your head. That’s his gift.

Squint and there’s a passing resemblance to First Day Out, the project he recorded in one night after making bail in 2016. The short run times make them more likely listens for the uninitiated (if only FNO was still on streaming). There’s a few songs that could credibly fit on both projects (“Diamonds,” I’m looking in your direction), the pointed references to prospering in spite of being homeless. It’s not a 1:1 comparison, of course. First Night Out is much more worried about the dangers hiding in plain sight, interspersed with occasional moments of optimism & Greedo’s usual pining for the opposite sex. Scope’s refrain is all tension and paranoia. “I Heard” finds Greedo sneering at anyone who thought he was doing football numbers. Even Ice’s loopy, word drunk flows contain heartbreaking asides about Greedo’s current mindstate (“I can’t trust the enemy and I can’t trust my friend”).

First Night Out alternates between peeking out of the blinds and enjoying the trappings of success. Still Summer opens with blunt references to wearing his jewelry to the pen & also lingers in the simple pleasures, like smoking weed in the morning or heading to the strip club. He’s married now so the man who didn’t trick on just anybody would rather pay for it & dispense with the pleasantries (“How much it cost to get some brain while the lanes switch?”).

While First Night Out was recorded after Greedo made bail in 2016, Still Summer in the Projects came together in the final days before his ascent was temporarily stalled, as Greedo takes great pains to remind us. Even when he’s feeling his lowest, he’s still able to find the silver lining. As he reminds us on the outro, “When I get back, I’ll be richer.” Much of it sounds freestyled (“Keep all that, lil bitch, I’m goin in, its off the top” sets the tone early) which isn’t to the project’s detriment but does cause a few of the songs to have an aimless feel. On the bright side, there are plenty of songs that sound like the perfect ideal of a Greedo/Mustard project.

“Bet I Walk” finds a motivated Greedo feeling himself  (“I think I’m P. Diddy, I’m a superstar”), as his following continues to spread past Pacific Standard Time. You hear every bit of the confidence that caused him to tattoo the words “Living Legend” on his face before he’d even begun to make a name for himself outside of Watts. Trap House lets Shoreline Mafia’s Ohgeesy and Rob Vicious handle the verses but Greedo’s hook is the connective tissue that holds it all together. Wasted sounds ready to slot in next to “Rack City” and “Blow The Whistle” in every LA strip club playlist, minus YG’s willingness to dedicate a portion of his verse to fretting over feminine club musk (and really, even one bar is too many on this topic).

“Grapevine” features some of Greedo’s sharpest rapping on the project, as many of the songs lean towards off the cuff singing and feel like they’re being written in real time. The Tuesdays and Thursdays reference is especially prescient. It is easy to see why “On Tuesdays & Thursdays, you better watch for the sweeps, cause them people gon’ act an ass if you get caught in the streets” feels like a mantra to Greedo.  He’s not looking to glorify his situation, though. He wants to put aside street credibility to expand on the positive aspects of his newfound status. This is a topic that he circles back to on the project’s final song, as the party ends and we are whisked back to reality.

Even some of the slighter songs remain captivating. “In the Morning” is the type of track that would scan an overly ambitious interlude in the wrong artist’s hands. It’s easy to see Shoreline Mafia or 1TakeBoyz taking a swing at a similar type of song, only to end up slightly outside of their wheelhouse. Greedo transcends the sophomoric by taking the time to flesh out the story with all sorts of details, making it evident that he truly cares about the song’s subject. She lives in the Valley, she has “good hair,” she fixed bacon, grits and scrambled eggs for breakfast.

There are a lot of songs about requesting head in the morning. There aren’t many where the protagonist lets us know where the woman lives, what type of hair she has, what she cooked for breakfast and what she could be doing for a living, if she applied herself.

Mustard holds up his end of the bargain and played an important role in shaping Greedo’s off-the-cuff melodies and sudden shifts in subject matter into songs that can slot easily into radio playlists. For my money, he remains one of the more fascinating producers working at a mainstream level. He’s done well to reinvent himself since the ratchet era, as many of the same people who once complained that every beat sounded the same are now championing Ella Mai’s more traditional R&B stylings. “Pure Water” manages to beg for repeat listens, even during a cultural moment where I can’t watch a half hour of television without Quavo trying to sell me Can-Ams and Mountain Dew. There aren’t many producers with Rihanna AND Drakeo bangers on their resume.

Still Summer in the Projects isn’t the album that is going to convert the uninitiated. It’s made for the summer nights, flying down the 405 with the windows down. Only time will tell if it has the same staying power as a God Level or a Purple Summer 3. Greedo’s best work uses its length to its advantage, revealing itself over the course of several listens. Those projects contained multitudes, as Greedo unpacked a lifetime of sadness and watched his biggest dreams come to fruition against the backdrop of a looming prison sentence. Meanwhile, Still Summer allows Greedo to hone in on a very specific moment in time. Yet it still feels vital and not just because it feels likely to elicit a listen from someone who is on the fence or unfamiliar with his work.  

It’s vital because it allows Greedo to straddle worlds past, present and future. He acknowledges the impending sentence with a clear eyed mournfulness while also setting the table for the inevitable return. He hints towards married life on the new project in a way that begs for further elaboration. He doesn’t want to talk about all of the bad things that he experienced anymore.

The whims of the prison system are difficult to predict. A wise man once told me that a prisoner is not actually in prison while they are looking at photos sent from the outside. Greedo’s flipped this truism, sending us a snapshot of his life right before stepping behind the walls. On Still Summer, we have no choice but to share in his optimism for the future and hope for the best.

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