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Colin Gannon wants the Wraith, so he’s gonna kill the booth.
Last year, Watts rapper 03 Greedo was sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug and gun charges. You might presume that the music he tirelessly recorded before being locked up would’ve been preoccupied with the sadistically long stretch ahead of him. But at least on his first release since being incarcerated, the Mustard-collaboration Still Summer in the Projects — he displayed enviable grit and hope. It was less carceral, more carnival.
Yet it’s a lone loosie that I keep returning to, which erases any doubt about Greedo’s lasting power — a phantasmal mini posse-cut with Drakeo the Ruler and Stinc Team’s Bambino — who are both behind bars too. “Let’s Go” is a brief yet symbolic slice (one relatively short verse) of Greedo’s always-glowing, never-faltering mind-state that steals the spotlight. His endearing ability to soar, to shine when everything around is dark, marks him out from schools of rappers loyal to maintaining a veneer of street coolness. It’s not all sadness, or dipping into sunny memories, even if he talks exclusively in the past tense. If anything, Greedo, chameleon-like, was beginning to master his own version of the voice-manipulating, yelping melody kinks Young Thug first innovated. His imprisonment snatched away our chance to see the full manifestation of that big breakthrough.
Although released earlier this February, the song only received a video this month. Unlike, say, Kanye West’s gimmicky, hyper-capitalist attempts at evoking religious worship, Greedo’s sonorous crooning, exudes pain and joy in equal measure. It really makes you want to confess your sins. Like most rousing scripture, ‘Let’s Go’ is, explicitly, about moving forward, about perseverance. “Let’s go, lit like the stoves // Get dough, let’s roll // Break it down, let’s leave // Wintertime, fall pass, that means it’s less leaves,” Greedo enthuses on the song’s enormous first verse, his voice restless and brimming with energy. Everything around him is in forward motion.
The Wolf of Grape Street raps here about wearing expensive sweaters, listening to Drakeo’s Cold Devil album, reading Malcolm X. Moments later, with as much pathos as he’s mustered before, he ponders his journey thus far. “Been flew out the nest, went in my chest, I had to make the news,” he raps, his voice taut and stretched “‘Let’s go, my mama used to pray for this in pews // Churches full of liars, I be preachin’ in my interviews.”
The song prises the best elements from each artist. There’s the rhythmically pleasing aloofness of Bambino’s hook, sedated and shy, tonally perfect; Fizzle & Al B Smoov’s woozy, aquatic beat, a strange warped beast that evokes the duality at the heart of all great west coast rap; Drakeo’s unsparing stoicism counterbalancing Greedo’s deeply felt, honeyed cooing. The song is more than the sum of its parts.
As Greedo unburdens himself of everything through melody, Drakeo does too, albeit in typically grouchy and inscrutable form. His writing is as bold and fresh as anything this decade. After comparing rivals’ ghostwriters to Geppetto, he unleashes fury in his breathy, crackling drawl, each bar a short burst of silencer-cloaked gunfire. “I don’t do the long typing, black ops, long sniping // It’s gon’ be a long night, disco ball, strobe lights.”
Despite their legal situations, the trio are unassailable here. No matter how many deprivations the the American judicial system has handed them, Greedo and Drakeo and the Stinc Team are still continuing to voice bluesy parables — uninterrupted — from their cold, concrete cells, built, as they were, to ground them down.