Image via Stockdale Baby/YouTube

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It would take a lot more than US$10,000 to make Harley Geffner never listen to Youngboy again.

The phenomenon has been well documented on this site, but music discovery through regional YouTube channels remains one of the best tools for understanding local rap scenes. Visuals Pierre Mealeo is based in Flint, and while it doesn’t film the biggest names like YN Jay, Louie Ray, or RMC Mike in the area, its channel is a good introduction to the street artists coming out of Flint. You can spend the whole day flipping through the videos on the channel and never get bored. The range of performers is astonishing and almost all of the videos are released.

Free Body is a showcase of a few of those lesser-known Flint-based artists, and it has that blocky energy that makes any number good. The latest rapper’s vocals aren’t even mixed together, adding to the DIY feel of the song and video, and creating a pretty fun transition. It’s a shitty extravaganza set to a beat laden with high-octane bells. Stockdale Baby begins with a warning, “If you depend on life for your children, don’t waste it,” and the whole song continues with an avalanche of those menacing bars. Bullets melt people like lava, chains are sewn onto chests, and if you talk crazy on Snapchat, they stop at your house.

4PF’s Lil Kee has a survivalist mentality. He knows street shit is stupid, and as he says: a change is coming, but not tonight. First, he needs to put him and his family in a more comfortable financial position. As he explains on the track, he was so used to sleeping on the floor that he even bonded with mice.

Growing up in poverty in Prichard, Alabama, where the median per capita income is less than $14,000 a year, violence has plagued those around her more than a few times. This type of education can charge you with a serious thirst for a better life. Knowing about hard times and heartache makes every moment more precious and the stakes of reaching a position of comfort much higher.

Lil Kee carries it all with him as he approaches his music, and you can feel it in this emotional performance. His eyes are blurry with pain as he raps about the last conversation he had with his friend who was about to pass away. It was a short conversation, and he wished God had whispered in his ear that this would be the last time they spoke. He ends the track with another kind of survivor’s guilt: an apology for not getting out of the trenches sooner to protect his brother.

Moreno Valley, California S5 has an addictive stream. It’s in a similar realm to Drakeo’s cooled suspension that pours from line to line, but with less puns and charisma – and a little more of a meditative aspect. Both are best eaten alone at night.

Beat the odds comes from S5’s new soundtrack “Before The Fame” and features a standout performance from R3 partner Da Chilliman. On the hook, S5 casually implores a mother to talk to Jesus about it when she asks why her son was chipped, and R3 follows him a few bars after his second verse explaining how he talks to his friend like he’s still there – but he’s actually with Jesus too.

The bars feel heavy, but are delivered by both guys with such cool demeanor that they register barely as heavy as they actually are. S5’s hook is slick, but it really is R3’s show here – they keep saying ‘welcome’ to him every time he enters the diamond district, you can’t see his crews the drakes because of their Moncler coats, and he can’t take anyone serious who puts sex before money. The S5 band rocks overall, but this song is clearly a showcase for its partner.

I don’t know if RX Papi recorded this on a prison phone or if it’s intentionally mixed to sound like he’s rapping from across a hall, but it has this hollow sound that, a once you get past the initial skepticism, sounds very cool. Maybe it’s the latter, as Tony Shnoww’s voice is mixed in the same way. Papi’s raps in real life are always intense. On a sample of Jodeci, he exposes some details of his daily struggle. He’s so paranoid that he sleeps with his gun and makes his girlfriend drive drugs around in her car just to prove his loyalty. He has U-Hauls for his drugs and knows which neighborhoods the blinds should be closed in. Rap money is cool, but it’s not enough to make ends meet. Shnoww is washed out by Papi on the track with a short but meandering verse, but has a few cool lines to his hard head before a long, soft outro to underline the sample’s beat.

The thing about BabyTron is that no matter the song, you’ll always catch some crazy bars because he’s just that creative of a writer. Every time I start to feel like his shtick is getting a little old, he shakes me with a left out-of-field bar that makes me wonder if he would have won a Pulitzer for his creative fiction writing. Rapping over so many beats is cool and all, and obviously shows off his versatility, but also gives a scrappy feeling song. It’s a fun listen that feels like a novelty that many people will hear and never listen to again. You always walk away thinking it was drugs, which I guess is the point. Just like the first time he did with the original Mitt Prince. Come for the bars of Luke Skywalker and stay for the chicken nugget ones and his impression of Drego’s voice.

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