XXL Drops The Ball On Baltimore Hip Hop
There are only a couple of well-known things known about Baltimore from outsiders looking in—it’s the home of The Wire and the Ravens play here. Also, some popular stereotypes of Baltimore are that it’s,overall, not a very progressive city and it’s inhabitants all too often operate with a crab-in-the-bucket mentality. Those two have some truth, but that goes to say that naturally, a lot of the cool, creative shit going on in the city isn’t very well-known, even by people who live here. The most disconnected of them all (which I’ve stated countless amounts of times) is the hip-hop scene. So disconnected that XXL could publish a list yesterday of 10 Baltimore Rappers That You Need To Know , and nobody knows the vast majority of them. I got wind of this list from a friend who’s living in Portland and at first it was pretty comical. But as I further delved into the collection of rappers that included Skarr Akbar, Mullyman, C.O.M.P. DBoi Da Dome, King Los, Em Sea Water, Mooked Out, Miss Cream, Starvation, and Off Tha Edge, it became more and more sad.
I posted the list on Twitter around 8 p.m and for the next two hours, most of Baltimore’s rap scene was debating about it. The two common responses I found from eavesdropping on everyone’s timelines were that, first- THIS LIST IS FUCKING STUPID AND THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT and second- STOP HATING BECAUSE THESE GUYS HAVE BEEN HUSTLING AND ARE ON XXL’S WEBSITE AND YOU AREN’T; both fair points. To be realistic, no matter what ten rappers were selected for this list, someone would have felt slighted and that they were no doubt more fitting. But, being equally realistic, some of these people really are unknown or have been out of the “spotlight” (emphasis on the quotation marks) for a while now. Something else that is bothersome about the post is that it was more than likely only published because of the Ravens’ recent Super Bowl 47 win and was probably not researched much by whoever the editor was. To take it all in and to properly assess what’s going on, you must take note that the writer said: ”The city, not yet known for its music scene, looks to flex its wings to be recognized as the next wave in hip-hop.” Most of these artists pretty much fall into the same street-rap sub genre. Skarr Akbar, MullyMan and Los are all well-known throughout Baltimore but the two former are in no way relevant anymore. C.O.M.P.’s best work was done pre-2004, Em Sea Water (what a God Awful name!) is a spoken word artist (listen for yourself), Off Tha Edge is an auto-tune boy band of sorts and the rest of the list was mediocre at best. Bad Boy Records’ artist King Los makes the most sense because, although he’s been floating around for some time, he is fairly relevant and is being pushed as a new artist to a wider audience. I’m not sure of what “next” wave everyone else is on.
Career accomplishments are a moot point to bring up on this topic simply because they don’t constitute being part of a new upheaval. I say this because this was one of the most common arguments presented in the two-hour Twitter frenzy. Did Trinidad James, A$AP Rocky or Joey BadaSS accomplish anything prior to being posted on major online publications? No, but they were captivating, young and lively. That’s where this list fails. It speaks of a new wave of hip-hop but 90% of these artists aren’t wavy; they don’t breathe any new life into hip-hop. I won’t make a personal list but artists like OG Dutch Master, Abdu Ali, TT The Artist, Go Ddm, Al Rogers, A$AP Ant and Rickie Jacobs are all young and full of energy. They’re no slouches either; they’ve been written about in SPIN, Respect Mag, AfroPunk, Hypetrak, VICE and The Source, respectively. Again, you could have asked ten people to make this list and none of them would have been the same but this just seems rushed and half-assed, on top of continuing to make Baltimore look cheesy and low-rank as hell. I say this all understanding that XXL is from, and in some ways stuck, in the Cretaceous Period of rap where they are not likely to exclusively break any unknown talent, but for Christ’s sake, get more selective, man! To make matters worse, I found with some internet snooping, that the writer behind the list lives in Baltimore. Shame, shame.