There’s a great moment that arrives in a few rappers’ careers: They’ve been local heroes for long enough to become local stars, and their reputation has started to expand the the point where their hometowns can no longer hold them. They’ve been around for years, and yet they feel completely new to the national scene, which is only just starting to discover them. Their voices feel fresh and resonant, even though the rappers have had plenty of time to hone those voices when nobody was paying attention. They’re in complete control of their voices, and, perhaps more importantly, they’ve figured out how to make songs, a skill that’ll serve them well in the outside world. That moment doesn’t arrive for most rappers, who either never find the spotlight or find it way too early, when they don’t know what to do with it yet. And once upon a time, the rappers having that moment would be about to become national stars. That’s not really the case anymore ever; the major labels and corporate gatekeepers aren’t going to throw their weight behind an unpredictable street-rap type when there are so many cerebral, pop-minded team-player types out there. But it’s still a great career moment, a time when it feels like things are possible. The most recent example that springs to mind is Kevin Gates about two years ago, around the time he released The Luca Brasi Story. And right now, D.C.’s Shy Glizzy is having that moment. Glizzy’s new mixtape Law 2 seems likely to be the moment that Glizzy stops being a regional phenomenon, when he really takes over. God knows the tape is strong enough.
Glizzy claims he’s not appreciated in D.C., but in his hometown, and in surrounding cities like Baltimore, his music gets a surprising amount of radio love. He’s a presence. He’s started showing up on other people records, and other people have started showing up on his records, or at least his remixes. Glizzy’s Law 2 tape came out a little more than a year ago, and the Glizzy of back then could already hang with out-of-town guests like Gates and Starlito, sounding like he belonged next to it. This time around, the guests have bigger names — Bobby Shmurda, the returning but increasingly popular Migos — and Glizzy doesn’t just sound like he belongs next to them. He overwhelms them. Glizzy’s confidence has grown; he has sense of purpose and direction every time he touches a mic. The tape ends with “Thank You,” in which he takes a moment to count his blessings: “Guess what? I just got a fuckin’ call from Mack Maine! / He told me Birdman want me to be in Rich Gang!” On the chorus, he’s singing: “Thank you, thank you, thank you / For listening to a real nigga.” But he doesn’t sound surprised that you’re listening, or that Birdman wants him in Rich Gang. He sounds like he expects it.
That confidence is even more striking when you think about what a weird and singular rapper Glizzy is. His voice is a thing of wonder — an excitable toddler blurt, about midway between Meek Mill sprint-rant and Lil Boosie nasal-honk menace. Boosie was almost certainly a huge influence on Glizzy, so it’s especially shocking to hear Glizzy take a shot at Boosie on opening track “Legend”: “Bitch I’m Big Glizzy, don’t treat me like Lil Boosie.” It’s weird because Glizzy and Boosie just did a song together, “Young Niggas” from Boosie’s great Life After Deathrow tape. It’s also weird because nobody ever disses Lil Boosie. You would have to be fucking crazy to dis Lil Boosie, and here Glizzy is doing it anyway. Glizzy is reckless and dark, and the contrast between his cartoonish voice and the bloody-minded shit he talks is, in a lot of ways, what makes his music work. There’s a demented thrill in hearing someone with such a ridiculous voice threatening to shoot up your house. It never gets old. And given that Glizzy is always getting better at threatening to shoot up your house, that contrast just gets deeper and more interesting.
That contrast is at its most vivid and striking on “Funeral,” the tape’s single and best track. At first glance, “Funeral” sounds something like Glizzy’s version of Meek Mill’s “Amen”: Glizzy talking celebratory shit over a lovely gospel-laced beat from KE On The Track. But Glizzy actually spends the track fantasizing about his own funeral, betraying no regrets or bittersweet feelings. He mostly just talks about what a fucking awesome party his funeral is going to be: “It’s gon’ be some superstars at my funeral / Driving in exotic cars to my funeral / Niggas that whip that brick of hard at my funeral / You might get your ass robbed at my funeral.” He talks about it like it’s a great club night, never quite acknowledging that he won’t be alive to see any of this stuff. On the verses, he lays out all the reasons why he needs to stay alive — uncle in a wheelchair, mom who needs help with her bills — but he still talks about his death like it’s a release, like it’s something to look forward to. It’s not a remotely dark song, and it’s also the darkest song you can imagine.
Download Law 3: Now Or Never at DatPiff.