Five On It: 5 Bay Area Projects From August '22
In a region known for it’s independent hustle August served to be a fruitful month for The Bay Area Hip Hop/Rap scene. The independent realm had numerous releases and celebrations for ground-breaking work. Flynt Nixon allows us a glimpse into the diverse soundscape from Vallejo, Sacramento, Richmond and San Francisco with brief reviews of: Champagne Gummies by LaRussel + Tope, Playing With Fire by Shootergang Kony, Free P The EP by Bez19, Kourtney Kardashian by The Dakota Wytefoxx and Spaceships on the Blade by Larry June.
Champagne Gummies by LaRussell x TOPE
Like 2 Hydrogen and 1 Oxygen atom, sometimes the formula is perfect! That’s exactly what LaRussell & Tope have with their musical chemistry, the perfect formula. Champagne Gummies, their latest collective release just reinforces that sentiment. Tope creates the music, then no look passes to LaRussell for the finish. Reminds you of a prime John Stockton and Karl Malone (no pun.)
At 9 tracks and just under 25 minutes of playtime, Champagne Gummies is a lot like a gummy, short, sweet, and to the point. LaRussell's addictive sing-a-long flow shines through on this project and makes the jewels he drops stick in your mind with ease. No wonder his shows are a lesson in crowd participation and retention (If you haven’t seen him live I highly suggest one of his backyard concerts in Vallejo, CA). Tope does his usual thing and provides the perfect canvas for LaRussell to paint on. A style that keeps your head nodding while simultaneously allowing you to catch every gem.
Champagne Gummies is yet another mile in a legendary run that LaRussell and Tope are on. With no signs of stopping, from Portland, Oregon to Vallejo, California the whole coast is in good hands.
Playing With Fire
by Shootergang Kony
Over the last couple of years Shootergang Kony has been establishing himself as a household name in the Northern California music scene. From his breakout single "Location On The Flyer" he’s shown that he has the skill and the consistency to keep the ball rolling. But the one thing that all artists need is that premier album which serves as the highlight in the overall discography... that brings us to his latest offering, Playing With Fire. The growth and maturity Kony shows on this project is something to marvel at.
The last year or two has been controversial and eventful for Kony, a lot of rumors, internal misunderstandings, friends lost to death or jail, etc. Instead of the all too common social media rant, he took things back to the heart of artistry and addressed everything in his music. In a real 'waiting to exhale' moment Kony gave the world his most personal and introspective album to date. Songs like "Miss My Dawgz," "Preaching," and "Write My Wrongs" capture internal feelings and expresses them in a way that only art can. Staying true to his sound the album still boasts songs with real hit potential, my favorite being "Bounce Out." No wasted verses, wasted features, or throwaway beats were involved in the making of Playing With Fire.
If someone has never heard of Shootergang Kony and wanted to get familiar, this is easily the album I’d suggest. It’s the perfect culmination of his sound, his story, and his lyrical ability. His growth shows that he isn’t taking his craft for granted. Instead, he’s working hard to solidify himself as a legend, and he’s on the right path to get there.
Free P The EP
Richmond, CA's Bez19 dropped his highly anticipated debut project Free P The EP and exceeded all expectations. As the flagship artist on Lil Pete’s 4ES label he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders being the 1st one out of the gate. One of the few artists to be on multiple tours without ever releasing an album, it was time to step out on his own. And he stood tall!
Free P The EP is dedicated to his little brother who is currently incarcerated if the title wasn’t self explanatory enough. The album is full of real life tales of pain, struggle, sorrow, success, triumph, and everything else that comes with life and the streets. Full spectrum!
“My cousin killed my cousin, I pray hard cause I love him that’s how it go down Cutting, these streets don’t love nothing”
he raps on "No Pop Shots." Giving you detailed accounts of a world a lot of us might not be familiar with. The standout track and single is the Rexx Life Raj assisted "Crazy," that combines a soulful beat with hard lyrics and a melodic hook (a proven recipe for a successful song.) Other standouts like "Dusty Feet" and "Rich Rollin" capture that Bay Area street sound that leaves no question where Bez19 was forged.
With features from Lil Pete, Rexx Life Raj, WantmoreN8, and Gleeko, Free P The EP is one hell of an initial offering. If he can stay consistent, Bez19 can establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. Catch him live on a couple upcoming West Coast dates alongside San Francisco star Lil Pete.
Kourtney Kardashian by The Dakota Wytefoxx
When I first heard the artist name and album title I didn’t know what to expect, The Dakota Wytefoxx - Kourtney Kardashian? When I took the time out to listen, the album cover only added to the confusion. The Dakota Wytefoxx with a blowout, laying on the lawn, posing like Teddy Pendergrass. Next step was to look over the tracklist, seeing song titles like "I Woulda Shot Goldi Locks," "I’m Not Scared To Lose My Life N***a," and "We’re Gonna Tattoo Your Orange Lamb Truck" made me clear out all assumptions and jump in blind. Little did I know the Rexx Life artist had delivered one of the hardest Bay Area rap albums in the last 20 years.
As a product of the Hyphy Movement, not the digestible one served to the masses, but the raw and uncut one happening on Bay Area streets. I’m a sucker for hard beats and energy. Now add outlandish bars and olympic level wordplay and what else can you ask for? That’s exactly what The Dakota Wytefoxx gave us with Kourtney Kardashian. “You n****s really p***y need a iced out nuva ring” and “Shout out Jesus but I got other n****s that died for us” are just 2 of the infinite lines all over the album. What stands out most is the originality, a real breath of fresh air in a time where the majority of music is follow the leader. From the beats, lyrics, samples, movie clips, etc. Kourtney Kardashian delivers at every level. I wouldn’t be surprised if this album ushers in a new take on a classic sound and inspires a wave of music that reshapes the region.
Spaceships on the Blade
by Larry June
Uncle Larry is back! It’s hard to find a California artist on a longer, more consistent, or more productive run than San Francisco’s own Larry June. He only widens the gap with his latest album Spaceships On The Blade. With production from legends like Cardo and The Alchemist his signature sound can only be classified as luxurious hood. Imagine champagne flutes, sheepskin rugs, and original art pieces on the walls of a trap house, that’s Spaceships On The Blade.
At a playtime of 53 minutes and a track number of 20 Larry didn’t hold back at all. A lot of times longer projects have some filler but this album was carefully curated. Every song fits in place and nothing sounds like a throwaway. In Larry June tradition the album opens up with a legendary spoken word piece provided by Uncle Herm. That transitions right into one of the standout tracks Private Valet, a perfect example of the “Larry June” sound. Smooth flows delivered over an orchestra of instrumentation full of 70’s-esque horns and modern day bass lines. With features from Curren$y, SYD, 2 Chainz, Babyface Ray and others he was able to pull the featured artists into his world and still make it work.
Larry June personifies another side of Bay Area hip-hop, the smooth player side that rarely gets shown to the national audience but has been there from the start. That changes now as Larry’s star grows brighter and brighter, merging audiences from trap stars and P’s, to stock brokers and avocado toast eaters. It’s only up from here, keep going Larry, NUMBERS!