Welcome to Jurassic Park, Georgia

Jacob Dorion takes a (metaphorical) ride through Clayton County, Georgia, the home of a rap collective starting to make waves.
By    June 23, 2020

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Jacob Dorion has probably read Ulysses once or twice.

In Clayton County, the future is being developed. The bounciness and color of Chicken Talk trap and the Zaytoven upbeat “whirrr” are being paired with drill’s bleak palette, and a rhythmic and unruly strain of the Memphis triplet flow. The catalysts of this movement are Slimesito, Black Gwaluh, BigSmokeChapo, BeezyB, and Fluhkunxhkos. A group of artists who have collectively reimagined Clayton County as Jurassic Park

Clayton County is a commuter town in the suburbs of Atlanta that doesn’t share in the big city’s prosperity. The median household income in ClayCo is under $40,000 a year, compared to $65K in Atlanta. In 2008, the school system in Clayton County lost its accreditation, meaning that their certification of competency, authority, and credibility was revoked (it’s since been restored). This was only the second time that this had occurred in a school system in America since 1960. ClayCo also has a reputation for being overpoliced. The sheriff, Victor Hill, is notoriously overzealous, and has a habit of arresting rappers and making a public scene of it. Offset and Playboi Carti have both been recent victims of this. Most headlines that implicate Clayton County highlight a corrupt criminal justice system, a lack of functional public services, and little else. 

The hip-hop lineage in Clayton County includes 2 Chainz, Kap G, Rich the Kid, and Southside from College Park and Waka Flocka Flame and Carti from Riverdale. A decent amount of ATL rap notorious streets are in ClayCo: Old National Road, Riverdale Road, and Camp Creek. So it can be difficult to neatly separate the city from suburbs. Metropolitan Atlanta has imported and exported sounds and styles for decades. Migos lifted triplet flows from Memphis and established them as part of the Atlanta canon. Drill music, both blunt and melodic, arrived via Chicago circa 2013. While the trap sound of Gucci and Zaytoven circulated around the whole world. Today, a generation of artists who spent their formative years listening to Flocka and Gucci mixtapes, are coming of age. After all, it was just a decade ago that Debra Antney (Waka’s mom and a ClayCo native) was managing both artists. And “Southside Anthem” off Lebron Flocka James contains direct references to ClayCo, which endeared him to the inhabitants of a place that doesn’t get much shine. 

It’s important to remember that at this point in 2010, trap music hadn’t gone global; Atlanta remained the epicenter. Music about the dead end roads, paranoia about the police, hustling to get by, shootings. This is when trap music was a soundtrack to a place and a moment. The ClayCo kids experienced this firsthand. Of course, as the 2010s rolled in, so did the prominence of the internet, which changed the way teenagers consumed music to be less regionally-specific. The Migos and Chief Keef and the lingering influence of Soulja Boy took turns as the soundtrack of the hour as the Waka-Gucci phase waned. Bits and pieces of all these artists can be detected in the sound of modern Clayton County.

The musical story of Jurassic Park really begins in 2017. A video from May of that year, uploaded by Clayton County videographer “Lil Shark,” shows that Slimesito had invited some young artists into his house in ClayCo, giving them a place to record and to collaborate. Duwap Kaine, Lil Candy Paint, Lil Wop, and Trippie Redd, were among those artists. Trippie Redd appears to actually be uploading his breakthrough project “A Love Letter to You” to SoundCloud, in this video. These rappers are hot prospects today, but at that point in 2017 they were just a collection of hungry teenagers. Sito, completely removed from any insider analytics of who’s hot and who’s not, was giving the right people an opportunity to build and grow artistically. He was at the source, seemingly without trying.

It was this intersection with the SoundCloud world that transformed the Jurassic Park movement from a local project into a phenomenon. Sito and the gang have a few videos from the year floating about on YouTube, but the sound wasn’t fully developed. It was that year when Sito found his flow: somewhere between the marble-mouth wit of Gucci Mane and the understated menace of 21 Savage. He began consistently dropping projects too, and his friends from ClayCo (BigSmokeChapo, BeezyB, and Fluhkunxhkos) joined him. Gwaluh was absent, on the run from a murder case. 

In 2017, Sito dropped the Kut Throat and El Slimelord EPs, alongside the collaborative EP SlimeBeezy with fellow ClayCo rapper BeezyB. These consistent releases began to gain him a following on SoundCloud. Hkunxhkos dropped the War Ready EP on Slimesito’s personal SoundCloud, and Beezy and Chapo dropped singles on SoundCloud and YouTube. Sito’s proximity to burgeoning names like Trippie and Duwap, alongside his street reputation, contributed to him and his crew’s elevated profile. 

Jurassic Park music sounds titanic and primeval, as though there’s something ancient in the hot, thick ClayCo air. You’ve heard the expression about how people have a reptilian brain and a mammalian brain. Music isn’t supposed to register in your reptilian brain. Yet when I’m listening to “Sticks” or “Revenge,” my reptile neurons light up like Christmas lights. 

The mythology surrounding the artists from Jurassic Park extends beyond rap. Their colorful visual presence on YouTube and social media adds a meme-era virality to their musical output. They might have the most original set of face and neck tattoos I’ve seen: a grinning reaper on the side of a face, many iterations of the “Jurassic Park” logo, a machiavellian portrait of both God and the Devil whispering into an ear. Slimesito has two large tattoos on his face, one of which is an assault rifle, and the other is a portrait of his mother. Additionally, they have a collection of guns that set them apart from the crowd of trap-rappers.

These can be seen in the video for “Sticks” by Slimesito, released in 2017. Hkunxhkos expressed in a recent interview that this was one of the reasons that they initially attracted an audience – “we were the only ones really having guns with beams.” As superficial as these details may seem to some music listeners, the ClayCo artists attracted a lot of attention to themselves through having the most oversized and outlandish versions of these things. This is a dynamic that rightfully makes some people uncomfortable. Aren’t we discussing music? Why does it matter that these guys look like cyberpunk gangsters? But this is America; this is music from the south, and we live in an attention-based economy.  If you include a machine gun with a double drum or a grinning skull tattooed on someone’s face, it makes people to want to click. Clicks mean buzz and labels are all too aware of this, marketing artists by emphasizing this style of visuals. I get that it’s fucked up. But this is an organic version of that phenomenon though, and a big part of how people became aware of Jurassic Park. 

Appearances aside, all have street reputations that precede their musical output. All claim allegiance to the 5-9 Brim Bloods, and the crew have all endured jail bids since the music started to take off. In an interview with ATL based podcast Breativity, Chapo speaks on a 2018 setback. A month after the birth of his daughter, and a week out from a return from New York after fashion week and a meeting with a record label, he wakes up to a tweet indicating that Sito got picked up and taken to jail. He called the mother of his kid to ask if she could check if he had a warrant out for his arrest. He did. Looking out the window of his house he could see the police closing in. Chapo runs out the backdoor.

By chance, he sees a friend of his driving past, so he flags him down and hops in the car with him. A bunch of regular cars pull out of the driveways of his neighbor’s properties and encircle the vehicle that he is in. Undercover officers arrest him and take him to the Clayton County jail, where he remained for fourteen months. The album that he was working on had to be shelved, and wasn’t released until March of 2020. Listen to “Bstroy” off of that album, .357 Smoke. 

In 2016, Black Gwaluh was involved in a burglary that resulted in a confrontation with the man whose possessions had been stolen. Gwaluh shot the man six times, killing him. Gwaluh spent the next year on the run. In February of 2018, he was caught by the U.S Marshals in Arlington, Texas, apparently jumping out of a third-story window in an effort to escape. Gwaluh spent some time in jail following his capture. However, he was able to beat the capital murder charge on account of self-defense. In the first quarter of 2019, Gwaluh was released from jail, and immediately began releasing music. His DP Beats-produced single “Big Shit” took off locally in the wake of these events. It’s a brazen statement that hits like a truck. There is a desperate paranoia in his delivery that probably follows from being hunted by the police for years and having a body hanging over his head. 

Gwaluh’s capture was documented in a report titled “Sheriff Victor Hill’s “Operation Wakanda” removes the Brim Bloods from Clayton County,” a nakedly prejudicial article produced by the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. In this report, the local cops showcase a one-sided perspective of the dynamic between these artists, the police, and their community. I’ll spare you the details (type “Operation Wakanda” into google if you wish to read the article yourself), but the upshot is as follows:The Sheriff has made it clear that there will only be one gang in his county, and their colors are blue.”

In 2018, Slimesito dropped the project which came to be his calling card. The ten-track, Scarface Sito set the streets on fire, and remains the most high profile release of any of the Jurassic Park artists. It’s a distillation of what made Sito so compelling to begin with. He sticks in the groove. So deep in the pocket that even if he was rapping in a different language your head would be nodding. The secret, however, is that Gucci Mane trick of quietly being very good at putting words together. Its make-your-speakers-knock music first, but there is an added depth that follows from Sito’s innate gift for wordplay.

Also the Pi’erre Bourne beat placement on “Revenge,” alongside the Ian Connor cosign, probably added to the hype. Sito was already in the mix, but after Scarface Sito, those who were plugged in to the underground began to look at him as someone whose brand is synonymous with what is cool. In the video for “PSA” by DC rapper Lil Dude, both Lil Dude (currently the hottest unsigned rapper in DC), and Goonew (currently the hottest unsigned rapper in Maryland) show how much they fuck with Sito. They rock some Scarface Sito merch, while Sito is featured as a member of the entourage. This video sits at over 1 million views today. 

He released the “Kold Blooded” album in early 2019. After this release he ticked over into tens of thousands of monthly listeners on Spotify. This accompanies his millions of cumulative streams on SoundCloud and YouTube, where he first found an audience. Legal setbacks proved to be the only thing that could stunt Sito’s success. Frustratingly, in mid-2019 he was arrested, and is to-this day sitting in jail in Clayton County. He is being held on nine counts of violating the state’s street gang act. 

Fortunately, Sito’s unselfish attitude towards kickstarting the careers of the people around him has kept the Jurassic Park brand alive and well. Since Sito got locked up, Gwaluh, Chapo, BeezyB, and Hkunxhkos have been more prolific than ever before. Between them, they have dropped upwards of 6 projects since then, featuring many collaborations with each other. Sito also released “Todo Blanco,” an EP, from behind the walls, which was marketed on social media heavily by his fellow ClayCo artists. 

There is an (old) Gucci – like gravity to the central characters in Jurassic Park. A dark cloud of jail and violence that seems to follow them around. On the flipside, there is also that well of creativity and imagination that never seems to run dry. Sito was not stingy with his clout because he knew that he hadn’t got on by accident. Everything he makes is a hit. How are five people who grew up together all so talented at making music? It’s almost as if there was something in the soil. There is no infighting between them because they are all at the source, and the source is boundless. So let us value the art that they make, because it is valuable.

Furthermore, let us hope that this story isn’t ended by the carceral state or some senseless tragedy, as is all too common of an occurrence. Because, if this scene is nurtured, what could come to be is all the more fantastic.

A Jurassic Park Playlist

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