SA via ATL rapper King Khali has been on my radar ever since his exceptional last effort Poor Decisions, Good Intentions(which you can read about here), and has yet to disappoint. His latest record Dummy Flow is 2 minutes worth of proof he’s hungry, determined, and can plow through anybody who get’s in his way. He’s definitely gonna be one to look out for the rest of this year into the next. Listen to Dummy Flow on Apple Music here
At this point San Antonio is becoming a breeding ground for artists who want to carve their path creatively. Since day one, Static Kiwi has aimed to drop nothing but hits, and has pretty much stuck to it. Their sound packs a major punch, and instantly hits as soon as you press play on any track. Their latest In My Bag is energetic, aggressive, and hard hitting, with members Landxn and Dino showing they’re no slouches when it comes to lyricism, and deserves to be on everyone’s radar. Check it out below.
SAs Southsidehoodlum has been getting big looks since he dropped Korner Store in early May. Following a cosign from New York Times Best Selling author and fellow Texan Shea Serrano, Hoodlums new found momentum helped him even get a Chopped Not Slopped remix from OG Ron C himself. Be on the lookout for more soon, and give a listen to both versions of the project below.
Dallas’ Arthur Black came through with one of his smoothest drops in a minute. Glaciers is a laid back, minimalistic yet aggressive track that gets its point across with ease, and is as cold as the title suggests. Arthur’s voice and cadence makes even his hardest lyrics glide like it’s nothing, especially with his own production. The feature Drip shows out as well, really fits in the pocket with his flow. Check it out below.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this modern era of hip hop exists as a renaissance, both culturally and sonically. Just this summer alone, we got release every almost every Major G.O.O.D. Music artist( they went 1 for 5, but that’s none of my business), Drake dropped a double album, Rocky dr(fl)opped, AND we finally got Astroworld, plus a ton of other quality projects. This shit crazy honestly. What’s gone almost unnoticed though, surprising most who bothered to pay attention, is a slew of high level projects coming out of San Antonio’s rap scene.
Anyone who’s really from San Antonio know shit been super trash outta there for a while, with the city of Carmen Calls and Chingo Bling remixes most major offerings for a minute being King Kyle Lee verses about the spurs and a nigga rappin bout snapbacks (Is AJ Herns alive?). While things and been on the uprise for a couple years now, except for the worst cypher in the history of rap(seriously, who set that shit up? I just wanna talk, fam), this summer is where it all came to a head, giving us top notch projects from AJ Bray, King Khali, Fritogang, and Reek & Sage all in close proximity. Things are changing, and SA could finally be on its way to make its mark in history the same way Houston did back in the day.
AJ Bray – Enigma
Enigma proved to be AJs best project yet, not just in quality, but in impact. He made a lot of waves with his FrFr video, creatively shot like a Genius lyric breakdown, catching the eye of a lot of major outlets, and provided some of his most energetic and tenacious songs to date, signaling a new livelihood and hunger. He’s beginning to embody a mix of trap and lyricism that melds so well together that you can’t tell the two styles apart, which is, in my opinion, how it’s supposed to be. At its purest level, the energy and aggression that AJ put into this project shows a true progression in artistry.
King Khali – Poor Decisions, Good Intentions
I’m not gonna lie, this project caught me by complete surprise. I was unfamiliar outside of his name being brought up in some convos I’ve had, but when I finally decided to listen, I was honestly taken aback by how nice dude is on the mic. A lot of confident flows, heavy punches, and good storytelling, really showing that he takes his craft serious, which I appreciate cuz it seems rare these days. On top of all that, he fits the pocket perfectly, never seeming off kilter on any of the beats and emulating all the emotions that his word convey. PDGI is a strong, introspective look at street life and the balance between keeping it real and keeping your composure, which is something the city really needed. Plus he topped it all off by going 2-0 in a beef, so bonus points.
Fritogang – “ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING?”
This one was probably one of the most anticipated just because of the amount of notoriety these guys have in the city. They’ve been operating in the scene for years throwing events and having one off performances(one had Texas State University going crazy), but this is the first major project from them as far as I know. They’ve been major proponents of developing their vintage throwback aesthetic, which is shown in their appearance as well as their music. Smooth sampling and production places you way back in the day, in the age of cookouts, house parties, and spike lee movies, bringing a different aura to the current climate of hip hop that’s reminiscent of the golden era with a pinch of modern flavor. It’s all smooth lyrics and flows from multiple members, most songs inspired greatly by 90s R&B, with some crooning that makes you feel like times were simpler, and you just got out of school in time to watch Moesha. To have something like this come straight out of central Texas really blindsides you, in a good way.
Reek & Sage – Chapter 2WO
For me, quality of music doesn’t always originate from the words you say or the hardest production, but the amount of passion you invest in it. Start to finish, this is a passion project by definition. One of the strongest pens in the city, Reek displays not only his ability as a lyricist, but a degree of emotional vulnerability and pairs perfectly with Sages production, almost to the point where I don’t want to hear anything else. It’s a introspective yet relatable look at who Reek is, his life, his experiences, every sincere moment he’s gone through expressed in a way where you’ve felt like you’ve gone through it as well. Sage really shine too, his unique not quite lofi style is something that is truly his alone, a sound I’ve never heard from anyone else, with the two of them together making shit like the wonder twins. This isn’t even just the best out of the city, I could truly see this making some best of the year lists from those in the know.
With these four dropping just this summer, like weeks apart, I’m really excited for the future SA holds. They really showcase the diversity of artists around, none of these guys even sound similar, and have paved their own way with their own sound. There’s so many other unique artists in the city as well, Clee, 80sBlond, and Proz Taylor, just to name a few, who are really showing that there’s much to the city that gets overlooked. the past. If the pace continues, the city is EASILY the next to cause a major shift in the culture, and all I can say is, it’s about time.
Anybody who’s seen AJ Bray knows. He’s full of life whenever he performs, commanding the audience and coming with an energy and presence that rivals that of some of the biggest artists. He separates himself, not defined by his hometown or his influences, but by his music alone. His latest project, aptly named Enigma, encompasses all of that energy to produce his most clear cut and impactful project yet.
Start to finish AJ Bray comes at you with a whole new clarity, and has set himself up to reach a new level. The opener The ReUp really sets the tone for what you’re gonna experience on the rest of the project, from a better mix, harder beats, and endless flows. Each track to track transition is smooth, with every song fitting together but standing on its own to be an interesting listen.
Song quality and structure are good, poignant and super catchy. AJs calling card is his quirky and effective lyrics, flexed in a way that really makes them stick with you. She Hates My Hoes should be all over nightclubs(wassup Club Rio), FrFr tells these boys the needa stop cappin out here, and Play Around is probably a personal for me on the project. As he continues through his career, AJ has yet to disappoint. We’re watching first hand someone who’s dedicated to his shit and refuses to ease up. True to his projects name, AJ Bray is a real life enigma.
Dallas rapper Big Ace is making major moves. With help from Mel of TheOutfitTx, he dropped off the visual for his new track Gabby Douglas, and it’s definitely not something to sleep on. The Icedoutjit production is smooth and lowkey, while Ace approaches it with huge swag and charisma and Mel comes in as a perfect compliment. Watch below and look out for more from Big Ace soon.
Houston artist Lona has really prided himself on his versatility. Whether he’s rapping about his own self reflection, growth and flaws, or singing songs of love, passion, and pain, he’s constantly shown himself as a mixed bag of emotion and mindset. As he prepares for the release of his next album 346, he dropped 2 songs that truly encapsulate his duality. Let U Tell It is a transparent look into the mindset of a young nigga on the come up, letting the naysayers speak with he forges his own lane, while Have U has Lona reflected on the pain of failed relationships. Listen to both below, and be on the lookout for 346 this July.
Khawaja stays with the hits. The Houston artist dropped a smooth, somber, energetic ballad that makes you feel. RIP shows a change of pace for the artist, with vibrant production from Cash Money AP and 30Hertz that really breathes life to the story he’s telling and putting you in the mood for Hennessy and texts you’ll regret in the morning. Listen to it below.
Love him or hate him, X’s status and one of the game’s most versatile artists to date shouldn’t be debated. In the short span of his career, he’s played with post hardcore, trap, boombap, and alternative indie all at once, encapsulating the emotions of depression with his last offering 17 in multiple styles. His new project “?” (Question, question mark, unknown, idfk) is more stylistic variation, but with a more lighthearted energy. While 17 expressed every ounce of sadness and made you truly feel it, “?” takes a more varied approached, covering a range of topics and styles that are widely different yet somehow still work together.
From the jump X wants to make it apparent that you shouldn’t go into the album expecting one thing, using the opening track Introductions to tell the listener to open their mind to the alternative style. No two tracks are the same or would even make sense in context if this was an album from anyone else, but that’s kind of what makes it interesting. Like, who else would you expect songs like Infinity (888), a classic New York sounding boombap track featuring Joey Badass, and I don’t even speak spanish LOL, a latin pop hit, from at the same time? What I like about X is that he doesn’t seem afraid to explore different territories that other artists labelled under a specific genre like rap maybe wouldn’t, and does it authentically, having it feel more natural than awkward. Floor 555 is probably the closest he’s gotten to his original aggressive lo-fi low-quality sound since he blew up, while Pain = BESTFRIEND is an angry post hardcore track reminiscent of bands like Touché Amore, and Schizophrenia sounds a lot like Let The Bodies Hit The Floor.
The songwriting itself is haphazard throughout the album, but for the most part it’s all pretty good. Moonlight is sonically pleasing and catchy to listen to, but lacks in the substance department lyrically, and while $$$ is my favorite song on the project, it’s most because Matt OX’s hook is SO. DAMN. GOOD. X’s verse is ok, there’s nothing that really catches you like the hook does. (I really hope we get new Matt OX music soon, gahdamn that boy ate). Infinity shows off and unlikely combination that works very well together. Both Joey and X have great chemistry and super strong verses, Joey pulling out the heavy punchlines while X shows off multiple flows and insane syllable work, and this makes me think that the collab project they teased a couple weeks ago would be a lot better than I originally gave it credit for. My least favorite song on the album is probably smash, just because I didn’t really find it interesting to listen to, and I’m not a huge fan of PnB Rock cuz I consider him like a Dollar Tree version of Fetty Wap. I personally feel like the Indie stuff is where x shines, songs like Love Yourself interlude and Changes really hitting you where it hurts in terms of invoking emotion. He’s very good at writing and orchestrating songs that make you feel something, which is part of why 17 was so good, you could really feel what he was trying to convey. X has proven himself to be diverse in that he writing coincides with how he wants the song to feel. He can write a pop hit, a lyrical track, or some heavy shit whenever he really wants to.
In summary, the project is cool. There’s something for a very wide range of people to enjoy, which is different than what a lot of other people are doing right now. It’s a very diverse project that has sounds that maybe some who just knows his hip hop work may not be used to, but if you are open, or are versed in multiple genres like me, you’ll have a strong appreciation for what X is trying to do with it. He’s really pushing his versatility as appeal. Why only push one sound when you enjoy and are influenced by so much more? Listen to it below if you haven’t already.