Standout Track: “Betta Watch Yo Self,” from Sketch’s forthcoming Ill album, on which the Lansdowne, Va., rapper runs down his hip-hop credentials over a beat of creepy piano chords and drums crafted by producer Kevlar. “ I want the papes, want the dough, I’m a bank schema/I got a team in Virginia like Frank Beamer/Tag team up/Gangsta lean up/Wanna battle, put your cream up,” he rhymes.
Musical Motivation: Sketch, part of the DMV’s Inner Loop crew, calls “Betta Watch Yo Self” a “get ’em” track designed to show off his rhyme skills. “In my inner circle, a track like this—just talking shit, bigging up your crew, bigging yourself up—we call them ‘get ’em’ tracks, because you’re just going at [the listener], gettin’ ’em,” he says. “I came up as a battle rapper, so I love tracks like this. I’m basically letting people know I’m hungry, that I’m trying to get known—letting people know that I can come with it.”
Betta Watch Yo Back: Partially responsible for the intensity of the work is the fact that Sketch and Kevlar were fighting about some long-forgotten issue the day the track was laid down. “When we got into the studio—Depth Charge in Crystal City—we weren’t speaking, but we were both there,” Sketch says. He says that, at one point, a decision was made to add an intro to the song, during which an imaginary hater would trash-talk the rapper, making Sketch’s boastful lyrics seem like a response. Kevlar eagerly volunteered. “He was like, ‘I’ll do it!’” Sketch says. “And when I laid the track I was pissed off—that’s where some of the aggressiveness comes from.”