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.
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.
Off a good tip, I sat down and watched King Khali’s new video for “Poor Decisions Good Intentions”. The DavieeDavee directed visual immediately offered an intimate portrait of just who Khali is. Atlanta born, the San Antonio resident loves rapping over 808 drums like most southern artists. Don’t let that fool you though, Khali balances bars with vibes better than most artists in 2018. The video centers around when Khali hit a lick to save his mom from eviction, and getting caught up in the process and slapped with a $30k bail. Surrounded by friends, you can feel the pain and anger in his words.
The realness turns into the mood of a whole project. Shortly after dropping the video, King Khali releases a 6 track EP that is a refreshing take on new-age street anthems. Flooded with realness, a touch of soul, and Khali’s bars balancing the two, Poor Decisions Good Intentions is one of the best projects I’ve heard lately. With production mostly from Duvin, the 808’s, bells, and heavy bass make the short project feel cohesive and fulfilling.
One of my favorite songs, “Pressure” features a banging chorus, and melodic verse from Taylor, an artist we’ve seen on Popped Cherry’s pages before. The transition of sound back into a verse from Khali is one of my favorite moments. Followed up by “Nothing New” featuring a fire verse from San Antonio’s Reek, Poor Decisions Good Intentions is right back where it started, a self reflective journey through the eyes of someone who has seen it all.
After a haitus, the Backyard Noise gang is back in full effect with their new single Distance. Each member delivers a verse that presents their own style and character, while fitting together with seamless transitions. Spacey production from AKA provides an eerie knock that pushes the squad to another level. Be on the lookout for more from the crew coming very very soon.
Although Texas seems like it’s a progressing state in the state of hip-hop music, it’s been a region in “Lone Star” state that’s been totally untapped. As Dallas, Houston, and Austin remain the big dogs of Texas, San Antonio is now the home of a deep pool of growing talent in hip-hop. As some people caught wind of what’s going on there with recent Atlantic Records signee BLAKE, another artist who’s selling out shows and making a name for himself is Mateo Sun.
Garnering hundreds of thousands of views on various records of his own, he’s proving why he’s capable of achieving the throne of San Antonio even more on “Right Now”. The PrvyedUp produced single is an instant hype anthem and shines more light on why Mateo Sun is taking over the Central/West Texas wave.
The chemistry of artist and producer is arguably the most important thing in rap right now. Like, everybody wants to work with Metro, but not everybody can even fit with what he brings to the table (cough, Nav & Big Sean, cough). More than ever we just hear artists rapping over beats sent to them, sounding good to the ear but lacking true depth, and it’s honestly become rare to hear something that sounds truly organic. Sometimes though, if you look hard enough, you might find collaborations that fit like a glove.
Members of the Backyard Noize collective, Lona and A.K.A. are no strangers to working to together, yet this project is the first time everything has felt so tight knit. A.K.A.s vibrant, bouncy production style is in full force, matching Lona’s voice and delivery very well, whether he’s holding a melody or delivering a verse. He has a talent for remaining distinct with his sound while keeping each beat unique in their own right, with their own life and style. A.K.A. steals the show with his feature on LUV 4 U as well, his R&B pseudonym Alvynne showing serious melodic ability. Lona’s versatility is one of his best qualities. Being able to transition between rapping and singing with ease is a highlight, his singing standing out on Precious Tyme, and 1998 Freestyle showing he can rap with the best of them over a classic feeling bounce.
Neither of these guys ever disappoint. Serving as an appetizer until Lona’s 346 album drops, Moment’s Notice is the blend of artist and producer connection that the game needs more of. Listen below.
AJ Bray been making waves in Central Texas for a while now, and after dropping his latest single Mobbin and moving out to LA this summer, he’s been hard at work at his next project, the follow up to last springs Gucci Durag Chronicles. The first was a nicely developed representation of him as an artist, and the sequel takes what he’s curated as his sound and pushes towards its next level.
I put this thing on for five seconds, and I looked in the mirror and had a complete edge and the wettest waves on the planet. Beginning to end, Gucci Durag Chronicles II showcases AJ in his purest form, owning his flows, being overtly confident in his lyrics, and showing off a strong ear for production, coming into his own and really dominating his individual sound. Though the tape is short, it doesn’t really lack any weight, sacrificing length in exchange for high quality. Track by track you don’t really find anything missing or bare. Straight out the gate, the intro track Busy is a braggadocious banger. The idea behind the track is that somebody like AJ Bray doesn’t have time for any extra, he’s too busy running up bands to worry about anything more. Indolence Beats production on it sets it off with think heavy 808s and a dark melody, but it’s the presence of the artist that gives it true life, which is a theme that’s mirrored throughout the whole project. Waitin On is an energetic track that makes fun of the opps that fail to bring AJ down in any way. The guest verse from Chxpo fits nicely and adds that extra layer of depth to the track, the transition from the hook and the feature so seamless that it’s like they were together in the booth when they recorded. Those paired with the other tracks, Dap You Up, WWYD, and Mobbin all work together to offer a nicely cohesive project, the Aye Cue verse on WWYD is a strong standout as well. Sounds from producers like Kashcloud and Cashmoney AP sprinkle the project and add a nice punch with their beats, and there is no mistaking any style or flow on the entire tape. This is 100% AJ Bray.
As a whole, GDC2 is dope as shit. It serves as a strong introduction to a blossoming artist if you weren’t already familiar, or shows a new form of growth of his artistry for his fanbase. With the being the first induction of the type of level he’s on since his move, I’m already ready to see what else he has in store. It’s only a matter of time before we start to see big things.
Production is one of the most important parts of hip hop culture right now, easily. Producers are flourishing, with so many unique sounds and styles, becoming artists in their own right, but continuously fail to get the notoriety that they deserve. Niggas could spend all day going in depth on what certain rappers bring to the culture, and the impact that they had on the game, but when it comes to those behind the boards putting in work to make the songs what they are, nobody seems to pay attention. Rappers don’t just make the songs by themselves, you know? To truly appreciate somethings value, you gotta pay respect to all the pieces that make up the whole. There’s so much more beyond the horizon besides a Metro beat, but people don’t notice hidden gems til everybody is already on the wave. Once again, if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself, so of course I gotta take matters into my own hands. I spent hours listening to dozens of tracks, trying to find the most unique and creative sounds and find the minds who stand out and bring something new to the table. These 10 have some of the best work you’ve never heard, and continue to redefine the what being a producer really means.
What impressed me about AKA is that at his age and experience he already has a much better ear for music than more established artists, and it comes through in his work. There’s a lot of layering and intricacies with his style that contributes to his sound, and you can hear a great amount of variety in his beats. Like, his project TEARS delivers a somber sadness throughout, while something like Everybody Eats packs a lot of high level energy. Although I can’t show off the unreleased stuff he’s played for me, trust when I say it is NEXT LEVEL. Showing growth with every track he puts out, AKA is a big one to look out for.
An Austin native, Sketchy basically lets the music speak for himself. His social media is bare, and there’s little known about him outside of his music. Even though he keeps it lowkey, his music packs a serious punch. I found him after a youtube video lead me to a bunch of “type beat” recommendations, and I was taken aback by the fully developed sound that he had. Each beat has a clarity that’s usually found in the big names producers, and his work as an artist is super catchy in itself. Even when I was already a fan of his work, I recently found that he had a placement on controversial rapper Tay K 47s album on the track Saran Pack, which in my opinion is one of Tay Ks best tracks. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before we hear Hella Sketchy a lot more often.
I found frumhere off a soundcloud repost a while back, and it’s been interesting to watch his development as he gears up to drop his first album. He has a more laid back, lofi sound that you can really vibe to. His Amerie mix we lie there & she says im trippin is certified bop, put a chillhop twist on a track that’s already a classic. What I love is that I instantly feel the emotion he conveys through his beat, dropping songs perfect to break up and make up to. His album is done and on the way, so don’t sleep on it or you’ll be missing out big time.
Discovering Khawaja was just a matter of running in the same circle. In simple terms, he’s an artist that just ended up producing to give himself something to flow on, but he’s really honed his craft and come into his own. When I heard the 6 Rings beat I was honestly surprised he didn’t have more clout, and his new track Que Quieres showcases a diversity in cultural background and influence that is rare to see within a lot of other producers. He’s on his way to becoming a serious heavy hitter in the scene, with some of the most impactful content out.
A few weeks ago, searching for music for a project I was working on left me to drown in an almost never ending sea of generic “type beat” videos. Izaks beats were most of the few that even stood out, but they stood out by a large margin. To lay it all out, the shit just knocks. The simplistic style insanely catchy, so much so that he just landed a deal with Atlantic records just last month. He just knows how to use sounds effectively and make anything he does sonically pleasing. If you keep your ear to the ground, you’ll 100% hear “Izak made this one!” on your favorite soundcloud rappers tracks.
Por Vida has been at for a minute now. He started producing at the age of 15, having blown up on SoundCloud in highschool under the name “Raava” and just recently making a comeback a new moniker He recently released an EP titled Only Nineties Kids, which is full of Vibes and has reworks from some of your favorite artists, is a member of the DIY stronghold Bassethound Collective, and a member of San Marcos based rap crew The Pnthn. Peep his shit on soundclound and bandcamp.
Another soundcloud find, visual artist and producer Lovibe has vibe in his name so you know he stays with the heat. All jokes aside, the Ukrainian(wow hip hop is universal af) producer is bringing some serious sounds to the table. His kicks pack serious punch and add that perfect amount of texture and don’t overpower, his melodies are crisp, and he deserves way more credit. Almost transcendent, his tracks deliver you to a new plane and leave you floating on sonic clouds of sound.
It’s going down in San Antonio tonight. Lil Rarri and Pauliiito x Ceehaze headline with other performances from MDUKE, POSTERCHILD, Wild Bill, and Frito Gang. Sounds by Lil Durag and Shelly Knicks with Ben Waid and friends pulling up.
Rarri and Pauliiito been blowing up lately so this will be a performance you definitely want to see. Doors open at 9.