A Ride Down Rosecrans

Miguelito surveys the recent RoseGrown Records compilation, featuring a who's who of contemporary L.A. rap.
By    January 6, 2020

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Miguelito wrote these bars at Not Your Mama’s Kitchen.

It’s fair to say most people in 1991, at least those east of the Inland Empire, didn’t know of Rosecrans Avenue in Los Angeles. The nearly thirty-mile road that stretches from Manhattan Beach to Orange County and passes through dozens of neighborhoods including Compton, Downey, Gardena, Bellflower and Norwalk was one of the few names immortalized in DJ Quik’s 1991 video for “Born and Raised in Compton”. While it’s obvious Quik wanted to broaden the reach of his city’s name from the title, he also included rapid black-and-white shots of a flashlight shining over ‘COMPTON’ on a city map. Before we see that though, he glides the beam around for a second and illuminates ‘ROSECRANS’, even adjusting the light so that frames the avenue’s name. 

Today Rosecrans Avenue is still name-dropped by rappers, but now the name also refers to a website and radio show that covers those rappers. Founded by Los Angeles native Victor Ulloa in the fall of 2014, Rosecrans Ave anointed itself “L.A.’s illest Hip-Hop Blog” and began extensively covering and promoting artists from across the city. Victor became Rosecrans Vic, brought in Kali Shashati as a business partner and the website and brand have become a conduit for the city’s rap that’s as omnipresent as the road that inspired it. After adding a concert series, Don’t Come to L.A., to the dossier in 2018, Vic and Kali started a record label under the Empire umbrella called RoseGrown Records earlier this year and released their first project, A Ride Down Rosecrans at the top of December. 

The compilation album stretches twenty-one artists across fourteen tracks and allows space for acts on the national scene like Shoreline Mafia and WS Boogie alongside regional favorites T Swish, Bravo the Bagchaser, RobTwo, Big $wift and Fat Meech. Like the name implies, A Ride Down Rosecrans is a tour of L.A.’s contemporary offerings and an abridged summary of the last decade of its rap. Compton’s Kalan.FrFr. and Watts’ RobTwo combine harmonizing for a carnal sonnet on loyalty (“True to This”) that highlights the gilded melodic sector of L.A. The typically jovial Fat Meech leans into sullen tendencies on the following track, “My Ride,” where he ponders the logic of his mobile armory (“Why do I keep sticks all inside of my ride?”) and prays for a friend’s appeal. Rucci is razor sharp as ever on the Dudadamthang-assisted opener “Fuck That,” but they’re just extras for the real star, Lil Rucci the black bong always in arms reach of the Inglewood artist.

The album reaches its emotional peak with the final track “Letters”, a collaboration between 03 Greedo and Trilliano. Recorded last year at Kali Shashati’s studio in the weeks before Greedo started his twenty-year bid in a Texas prison, “Letters” is Greedo’s plea for communication once he’s locked up. Greedo repeats “send me letters when I’m booked / would you stay down when I get took” like a meditation that gets more intense as he realizes its weight. It’s sweet and troubling, sincere and personal while underscoring the cruelty of his sentence. It fits in the stream of unorthodox love songs (“Sweet Lady,” “Molly,” “03 Purple Hearts”) that endeared Los Angeles to Greedo.   

The day after the album’s release RoseGrown Records showcased its sample of the city for a listening party at the Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset, a bar historically associated with rock acts like Alice Cooper and Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. On the porch, now named after Kilmister, Rosecrans Vic ended the event just before 9 p.m. by saying, “That was the last song. You can stay but it’s kind of a rock bar…not really our vibe. Tip the staff.”            

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