“It feels like they’re just getting started.” That’s something I wrote about the young Vallejo, California rap group SOB x RBE eight months ago. It turns out that they were really just getting finished. Eight months ago, SOB x RBE had enormous momentum behind them. They’d made “Paramedic!,” maybe the single best song on Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther soundtrack. And then they’d followed that up, weeks later, with the release of Gangin, an album of explosively energetic Bay Area rap music. They seemed like they were the crest of a whole new wave — a young rap group who’d become regional stars by knocking out anthem after anthem, relying on their own local sound rather than plugging into the Atlanta rap zeitgeist. Instead, there’s a good chance that they’ll go down in history as a brief blip of excitement.
From the outside, it looked like things were going beautifully. SOB x RBE had formed in 2015 and then spent the next few years building a sonic identity and a regional fanbase. With “Paramedic!” and Gangin, they suddenly had a national profile. They were playing festivals and opening for Post Malone on tour. And they’d kept recording. In August, SOB x RBE teamed up with a fellow fast-exploding young California rap group, LA’s Shoreline Mafia, on “Da Move,” one of my favorite songs of 2018. And Gangin II, another full-length SOB x RBE album, came out just a few months after the first Gangin. But a week before the release of Gangin II, Yhung T.O., the closest thing that SOB x RBE had to a potential breakout star, announced that he was leaving the group, effectively killing any momentum that the group had built up.
In a recent FADER cover story about SOB x RBE, Yhung T.O. talked about the deaths of his little brother and of his uncle Lamont, who’d inspired him to start rapping in the first place: “In between that time of everybody thinking life is great and we getting rich and we getting famous, I was taking losses.” Maybe that’s why he ended up leaving the group before that initial burst of excitement had even had a chance to fade. Or maybe Yhung T.O. left for more garden variety reasons. In announcing his departure on Instagram, he wrote cryptically about old friends who were “disloyal.”
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#Repost @yhungto To Whom It may concern… No We Not Fonkin We just on different Terms, Crazy How You make money and Create a New Life wit Niggas you call brother and in the End they still disloyal People tell me “ SOB X RBE is the BIGGEST thing, You never gone be as BIG without out, What about the money ?? How u gone feed yo family without SOB X RBE” So what I’m posed to do go against the grain and everything i believe in fa money ?? Never I will never sell my soul, You can’t buy a real nigga , And Hey even If i don’t be as BIG without it at least I could look myself n the mirror everyday and know I’m Still a Solid Nigga to the Core 2️⃣ Sumtimes No matter how hard you try to keep shit together sometimes shit just be destined Who knows what the future a bring tho ♂️ @_daboii_ Always Love You Bro Demon and Mufasa Forever ❤️…. And Just for you Dumb MFs It ain’t got shit to do wit Money it’s bout Respect #TuTuLand
Yhung T.O. and Slimmy B, the SOB x RBE member with whom he’d supposedly had problems, later posted a photo together, indicating that they’d squashed whatever they had going on. (There are also rumors that the problems between them were never that bad and that the problem was that Yhung T.O. and fellow SOB x RBE member Lul G had signed solo deals with different major labels, thus rendering the group an untenable business arrangement.) Maybe Yhung T.O. will eventually return to the group. Hell, maybe he already has. But it’s still a momentum-killer, seeing this seemingly one-for-all group splintering off in different directions.
If the split is real, it’s a huge loss, both for SOB x RBE and for Yhung T.O. Within the group, Yhung T.O. stands out. He’s the sing-rapper, the one whose airy melodies offset the feverish intensity of the other three members of the group. Slimmy B, Lul G, and especially DaBoii are all classically choppy Bay Area rappers. They fight upstream against the beat, creating a sense of rupture and chaos. When Yhung T.O. is in there cooing a hook or floating above the track’s tumult, he gives the songs a different dimension. SOB x RBE could continue to thrive without him. He’s not on every song. Instead, they switch off lineups from song to song, which lends them a constant flux. Maybe they’ll be tighter without him. But maybe they’ll just sound thinner and less substantial.
Either way, we already know that Yhung T.O. sounds thinner and less substantial without the rest of the group in there with him. Earlier this week, Yhung T.O. released his solo mixtape Lamond “Young L” Davis, named after his late uncle. Yhung T.O. is clearly expressing some heavy stuff with the release of this tape: “Too many thoughts up in my mind, sometimes I can’t talk,” “I made six figures and ain’t got shit for the rainy days.” But he’s mostly singing, not rapping, and even the production is more staid than what we’re used to hearing with him. Lamont “Young L” Davis isn’t a waste of time, but it’s got none of the excitement that Gangin and Gangin II had. Maybe it’ll turn out to be the quiet beginning of a great solo career. Maybe it’ll be a hiccup before an SOB x RBE reunion. Or maybe that’s just it for this guy.
Whatever the case, there’s something appealing about the idea of SOB flaring out after the two Gangin albums and last year’s great self-titled mixtape. It reminds me of an early-’80s hardcore band barely staying together long enough to release on classic 7″. Things don’t last forever. And if this is the end of SOB x RBE’s story, then they never had time to fall off. There are worse fates.
1. IDK: “Moral” (Feat. Maxo Kream)
Right now, a whole generation of underground rappers is figuring out that roiling, unstable energy and sharp, nasty writing can coexist, and that they can even make each other better. At some point, that whole crew is going to produce a major star. Maybe it’ll be IDK or Maxo Kream.
2. The Alchemist: “Fork In The Pot” (Feat. Schoolboy Q, Westside Gunn, & Conway)
A bicoastal summit meeting of neo-traditionalist head-knockers, all of them competing to see who can come the hardest. Schoolboy Q wins, but really, everybody wins.
3. Peezy: “Duckin’ Wreck” (Feat. Cash Kidd & Big Rizz)
Detroit seems to be the rare city where the vast majority of underground rappers are trying to do something other than imitate Migos flows and fill up space between hooks. God bless that place.
4. MoneyMarr & Baby 9eno: “AR”
I like when a rap beat makes you feel like you’re underwater, even if the rappers involved can’t quite stay on that beat.
5. Swizz Beatz: “Come Again” (Feat. Giggs)
Now as ever, Giggs has an unbelievably cool voice.
IT WAS ALL GOOD JUST A WEEK AGO
too bad about filmstruck but really how were they supposed to compete with things like this pic.twitter.com/KyX2pgORCv
— Jack Hamilton (@jack_hamilton) October 26, 2018