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.