The Power, Violence And Trauma of Dez Yusuf

A premiere of the new video from the rising Eastside Long Beach artist
By    May 21, 2020

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East Long Beach. Demons may haunt the Queen Mary, but life-threatening apparitions actually stalk MacArthur Park. This is Eastside Longos territory. Along with the Rollin 20s and Insane Crips, they patrol blocks where iron gates trace the edges of lawns that taper to worn bungalows. The barred windows on every home are not an aesthetic choice.

Dez Yusuf knows these blocks well. He’s lived on them his entire life, bouncing from residence to residence and sometimes living out of his car. As one half of rap duo Crimewave 5150, the rapper/producer has wrecked venues all over the city. For several years now, he and JSNMSK (the other half of Crimewave) have captured the horrors of their city with doom-ridden rap reminiscent of Three 6 Mafia’s darkest tracks. They trade imitation for unique synthesis, fusing macabre Memphis flavor with the codeine-addled crawl of DJ Screw and industrial sounds that mirror those echoing from the Port of Long Beach.

Last year, Dez released his predominantly self-produced debut album Cadena 77. Continuing and expanding the Crimewave sound, the album is a grim and powerful document of struggle. This is music made for days that look as dark as night, the soundtrack to grinding amidst gang members and addicts while imbibing pain-numbing substances and searching for a place to sleep.

Today, we’re premiering the video for “Power Violence.” The song begins with a litany of “the only shit that matters”: power, violence, money, hoes, bitches, status. This is the Tony Montana textbook, reality for those who own blocks that police seldom cruise alone. “Imagine your uncle who ran the streets and did a bid,” Dez says. “These are things he might say to you.”

Dez raps with the detachment and swagger of someone who saw too much too soon. If your chain could get snatched as soon as you hit Cherry Ave., you too might oscillate between thoughts of homicide and suicide.

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