Hip-Hop 2012: Inside Lamar's Black Hippy Crew
Flipping the Wu-Tang Clan's model for success, the four-headed beast that is South Central L.A.'s Black Hippy wants to establish each of its members' solo careers first. The idea of a full-length supergroup project, hinted at but unpromised, has fans salivating. Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul are all signed to emerging indie powerhouse Top Dawg Ent. Tied by geography more than rhyme style, mind-set more than appearance, the members of Black Hippy share studio time and tour dates — including this summer's Rock the Bells — and appear on each other's remixes and solo albums. "When we first did a song together, it was just like a natural vibe," Lamar told Exclaim! in 2011. "From there, we just became friends and real close homies."
Ab-Soul (pictured above)
Often sporting shades because the Stevens-Johnson syndrome he contracted as a kid made his eyes sensitive to light and turned his lips dark, this Carson native honed his spazzy soliloquies with the first two instalments of his planned four-part Longterm mixtape set. Fuzzy-wigged Ab-Soul, whom Lamar calls "a pure genius in creating words," dropped his second proper LP on T.D.E. this year. Critically lauded, Control System is the best work of the improving MC and sometime singer's burgeoning career. The other three Hippies hopped on the remix to Control's lead single, "Black Lip Bastard."
The oldest Hippy at age 26, the Watts-raised Jay Rock is cut from that classic West coast gangster mould. His gruff voice recalls Xzibit, and his chiselled yet wise approach is a throwback to artists like Kam and MC Eiht. Jay made a street smash with 2011's Follow Me Home; his independent debut features major hitters Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Chris Brown and the Hippies. Lamar provides a smooth lowrider-worthy hook to Jay Rock's rugged standout "Code Red."
Born in Germany but raised in L.A., Schoolboy Q fell into a life of drug dealing and gangbanging. No wonder his music — boozy and introspective — is therapy. Building on 2011's Setbacks, Q made a memorable cameo on A$AP Rocky's LiveLoveA$ap mixtape and dropped the head-turning Habits & Contradictions at the top of this year. In terms of technical prowess, Q is the one who can give Kendrick a run for his notepad. "Q is street with a little bit more edge of recklessness," Lamar says. He has followed Lamar to Interscope and is working on what will be the second Black Hippy project on a major label.
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