To say that, right now, Baltimore is producing an unprecedented number of musical artists feels a bit irresponsible without having done the proper research but over the past two years, the city has seen a significant jump in the number of artists finally being comfortable enough to share their work with the rest of the world. This is especially true with the amount of street music being pumped out. At the turn of the decade, G-Rock and Smash (both now deceased, sadly) were undoubtedly the biggest voices for the streets of Baltimore but technology hadn't reached a point to where their music could travel with the necessary speed to spark a phenomenon. That changed with Instagram and Twitter's increased role in youth culture over the past three years. In 2014, Young Moose and Lor Scoota took the city by storm, as their singles "Dumb Dumb" and "Bird Flu" resonated with the city just as strongly as Rod Lee's "Dance My Pain Away" did in the mid 2000's and Tim Trees' Rod Lee-produced "Bank Rolls" did in the early 2000's. Their success has surely made an impression on the city's youth, showing that if they show their art to the world, recognition, money and a way out of the struggle could soon follow.
At the tail end of 2014's local street music craze came YGG Tay, whose music, like most street rap, covers his experiences in a harsh environment but what sets him apart is his celebration of the benefits that come with that lifestyle. From his first track "Why You So Mad?" to recent cuts like "Ain't No Way," it's hard to imagine Tay not laughing or smiling while recording, enjoying all the money, women and clothes that he can handle. His demeanor is almost Mase-like in that his charm is infectious and before you know it, you're screaming lyrics to his songs with his same level of joy, even though you probably can't splurge the way he died in his music. With at least 10,000 downloads on each of the tapes he's released over the past year, a co-sign from Future and deals on the table, it's gonna be interesting to see where his young career goes. I recently caught up with the 21-year-old to discuss his career goals, what he's learned from Future and how he wants to affect his listeners.
When did you get your start in music?
YGG Tay: Jeezy. Nothing but Young Jeezy. I feel like I know that nigga life. He talks nothing but my life. I listened to a lot of Gotti, Future, and Boosie too.
Most of your music embraces having fun and living this grand lifestyle. When you started out, did you have a goal for what you were trying to portray? Like, do you wanna just speak on your life or are you trying to inspire others to go after what they want?
I can’t say it was a goal because I never planned on being a rapper. I didn’t grow up wanting to rap; I just started this like a year ago. Basically, I just talk my shit and talk about my lifestyle.
When was the moment you decided you wanted to actually pursue a rap career?
One day I was with my homeboy playing around, making songs and then I made a video for the “Why You So Mad?” joint. That shit blew up and I was just playing. I just wanted to do anything. After that, my homeboy came to me and said “We about to take this shit serious.” He locked up now but we been going hard ever since then.
So what even inspired you to make that song?
Man, I can’t even remember. Just being bored yo (laughs). I didn’t have nothing else to do.
You’ve put out your first three tapes within a year and they all have over 10,000 downloads on Spinrilla right now. Why do you think people gravitated to you so quickly?
I think people gravitated because they believe me, you feel me? If I’m on a tape talking this and that, Balmain and all that, you can go to my Instagram and see it.
How did Future come across your work?
I met him through my homeboy G.O. who talked on the intro to the August 13th tape. He locked up right now. But the whole Freebandz is my niggas.
Has he given any game to you directly yet or are you just sitting back and learning from his moves? Because, the rate that he’s dropping projects is insane. It’s only been a year for you and you have three tapes out.
Both. I definitely look up to him the most out of anybody right now. His work ethic is crazy. That motherfucker don’t leave the studio.
Since you dropped your first tape, is it something you told yourself you gotta improve on?
Not really. I’m just getting used to rapping, being in the studio, playing with different flows and all that. At first, I was just going in and whatever was on my mind I would just say it. I didn’t give a fuck about how I said it or anything. I used to freestyle but now I take my time and write some stuff down.
Over the past two years, more and more artists have been popping up in Baltimore, which is a great thing because even four years ago you couldn’t name a lot of people. What do you think is happening here that’s making young kids want to pursue music as a real career? I’m finding a new local artists online damn near everyday.
Niggas coming out of nowhere with them hits, too, I’m not gonna lie. I don’t know yo. Instagram a big part of it, I think. People seeing rappers get a lot of love.
You mentioned already being approached by labels. Is that a route you want to go now or do you want to avoid it?
I’m gonna avoid it right now. I wanna try this independent shit first because I got my own money to do my own shit. It’s a couple labels that’s been talking to me but I wanna see how I can maneuver through this my damn self. The only reason I was thinking about signing to anybody is that machine, man. But if you do it independent, you got your own power and you don’t have to listen to nobody. I’m a boss. I don’t like listening to people.
What do you think Baltimore has to offer that’s not present in music right now?
Baltimore is Baltimore. All this crazy shit going on, we got our own slang. We just different. Nothing compares to it. People always bringing up “The Wire” but “The Wire” don’t got shit on this shit. It’s really wicked! It’s way worse than that.
Last year I performed at sxsw and when I was done, some dude from Philly ran up on me like, “Yeah, I already know about you. I’ve been seeing you and listening to your shit.” I was like, damn. Nobody never blow from here. We don’t have one rapper that blew from here. One! It’s gonna come. And I feel like when one person blow, everybody gonna blow. It’s gonna start flooding. It’s like how it got here. One nigga got hot in the city and everybody started being like, “Oh, I like him too.” I feel like Baltimore time coming. Everything takes time.
Who are you listening to in the city?
I like G-Rock music, who just died. He talk that talk I like. I listen to Moose music. I like FMG’s music. Of course I fuck with Tadoe, Lor Staccks and Dre. YG Teck. I like Shy Money. Hope I didn’t forget nobody.
How are trying move going forward? Three tapes a year every year?
I’m in the studio all the time so I’m definitely gonna be releasing a lot of music. I’m in the studio like four times a week but I need to be in there every day.
What do you want people to gain from your music?
I wanna inspire everybody to get money. Just get the money and everybody can live good.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
Everywhere. TV, awards, everywhere.