DMV Beats, Jumbo Edition: Farma Wesley, “Washington Slizzards,” and RIP Smash Taylor
Here's what we know about Farma Wesley: He's from Woodbridge but claims Liberian heritage; he's got a righteous high-top fade; he says he's got a mixtape called Farmageddon coming in May; and his Golden Era-influenced rhyme style bends toward extended metaphor and personal revelation. "White girl upset when I don't text her/She talk too long and I don't like lectures," he says during "Wesley," a song with a Sade groove and a nice, no-frills video. Bonus cut: The tall-walking, reggae-bracketed "Rebellious Riddim," which is mostly boasts. —Joe Warminsky
When I saw a cryptic tweet from Trillectro organizer Modi Oyewole referring to the "starting point guard for the Washington Slizzards," I had no idea what he was talking about. But a couple of tweets from Ras Nebyu to Arts Desk's Twitter account cleared that up: Nebyu is the rapper behind "Washington Slizzards," a smooth, '90s-channeling track in which Nebyu rhymes about "the return of the futuristic black man." The song's video is rife with D.C. references, like catching the 70 bus "where Georgia and Kennedy meet." At only two-and-a-half minutes, the clip is brief, but it still grants the MC an opportunity to drop a few clever lines ("In them Banneker days, we had good times like Willona"). Check out Nebyu's Babylon's Most Wanted mixtape to hear more of what he's got. —Julian Kimble
The Time Tommy Hilfiger Emailed Fat Trel
Earlier this week, Fat Trel Instagrammed a screenshot of an email designer Tommy Hilfiger sent him. In the email, Hilfiger instructed Trel to visit the Tommy Hilfiger store in Potomac (misspelled "Potomic") Mills to "get some stuff to represent." Trel's work with Master P has already aligned him with '90s hip-hop, but this assist from Hilfiger—whose son is a rapper—could put him in the same vein as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah during the Purple Tape era. If you're familiar with the duo's "Ice Water," you get what I'm talking about. Trel's clearly proud of himself, as he should be. —JK
She's from Baltimore, not the DMV, but today we'll make an exception for Fat Trel associate Sheila D, because this week she dropped the video for her new single "Instagram." Right out of the gate, she screams "Never gon' know when I'm comin'!"—and it's both terrifying and effective. Over one of those plodding "army beats," she continues her boasts ("Anything I get on I chop up like Benihana"), and she does it all while getting her hair done. —JK
Last time we checked in with the fur-hatted Ike Da Kid, he was kickin' it low-budget style around the University of Maryland. For his latest video, "Green Card," the look is more polished (courtesy of Mario Bonilla of The New Chill), his stamping ground is Georgia Avenue NW, and our hero is just plain Ikey now. "We shot that on my block, like, that's the corner store on my street," he says. And that beat? It's a resurrected DJ Premier classic, made famous by the Chubb Rock-led Clockers version of The Crooklyn Dodgers. Ikey, who has Nigerian roots, says he's got a mixtape, Fresh Off The Boat, coming this summer. —JW
RAtheMC seems obsessed with controversial celebrities. Around this time last year, she dropped "OJ Simpson," a stomping call to arms that chastised mainstream rappers and their false personas. Out this week, "Chris Brown" shows RA perpetuating the theme—but the track's not really about Rihanna's maligned boyfriend. It's a festive affair on which the rapper ponders her career track: "Richie B done hit my phone/'Nigga, why you still ain't on? You a big boss, I mean big dog, they don't wanna throw you no bones?'" Maybe this'll be a hit. Word to Chris Brown. —Marcus J. Moore
If you couldn't find any DMV rappers in the city last Sunday, chances are they were at the very cramped Midieast Studios in Alexandria, Va. There, pretty much every local rapper of note—from KingPen Slim and Garvey the Chosen One to Gods'Illa and Laelo—spit 16-bar rhymes about GPS maps (word to Muggsy Malone) and the recent presidential election. And while just about everyone did well, Don Juan turned in a standout rhyme, including this bar: "You 'bout to lose to this nigga/Mitt Romney." All told, it was a great look for a great cause. The cipher collected more than $900 toward rapper Pro'verb's WillRap4Food charity. —MJM
RIP Smash Taylor
Baltimore-based rapper Terrel "Smash" Taylor was found dead in his home last Friday. The news rippled through Twitter, and his management released a statement confirming the news by the weekend. Smash had suffered from a heart condition, and the cause of death was congestive heart failure. He is survived by two young sons and his daughter. He was 31.
I interviewed Smash last summer around the time he released his Block Work: King Jaffe mixtape, which went on to become the year's most downloaded tape on AllBMoreHipHop.com. (Also: Last year, Arts Desk included Smash's "Thank God" on our mixtape Street Sweepers Vol. 1.) He was introduced to me as the biggest rapper in Baltimore, and his manager insisted on buying me steak and whiskey at Cleveland Park’s Medium Rare. It was a gracious, delicious, and unnecessary gesture.
Smash, tall and commanding, wore an enormous decorative chain that he claimed cost him $50,000. He positioned himself as Baltimore royalty and deftly played the role of king, but rapped like he was a henchman begging to be let off the leash.
Yet what I took from my 90-minute dinner date with Smash is that he was an incredibly humble, hilarious individual with a deep passion and understanding of hip-hop history. Because of Baltimore's poverty and post-Wire infamy, it was easy for Smash to sell gruff, streetwise "authenticity" to cultural voyeurs. His video for "Goons," like many area hip-hop clips, is instantly jarring; its corners, guns, and threats seem real.
Smash was big enough to spawn haters—and his haters wrote hate songs. He said that baffled him—because his people knew where those haters lived. It was supposed to sound ominous, but when I pried, Smash admitted that he preferred a more peaceful type of conflict resolution.
At one point during the meeting, Smash's buddy pulled out a camera phone and proudly showed off photos of the time he played a homicide victim on The Wire—fake blood and all. Smash rolled his eyes, and said, "Come on man, everyone was an extra on The Wire."
I had planned to follow up and hang out in Smash’s Baltimore, but I never made the time. I wish I had. I missed an opportunity to explore an immensely likable artist the world will never see again. —Ramon Ramirez