I'm 31-years-old. The first rap album I purchased (2Pacalypse Now) was on tape. An actual cassette tape. I love De La Soul. I love Nas (except for Stillmatic). I love Common (except for Universal Mind Control).
Predictably and understandably, as I have grown up, my personal tastes in hip-hop have largely remained the same. But I've also been covering hip-hop for well over a decade - there literally aren't many people alive who have listened to as many different rappers as I have - so I've also developed the professional ability to recognize when an artist has "it" or at least the bare minimum of "it." I can easily weed through all of the junk, the viral Vines and the regretful tweets to determine if an artist can generate enough noise to be heard in the deafening wind tunnel that the music industry has become.
Enter OG Maco.
Over the past nine months, the Atlanta native has appeared on the pages of DJBooth a total of 17 times as either a headlining or guest feature artist. Incredibly, during this span Maco also released four free mixtapes and eight free EPs and he recorded the bulk of his forthcoming, full-length album. I have not listened to all of his work, there isn't enough time in a day, but I have listened to enough to realize that I just don't hear what others do.
Who are these others? Maco is signed to Atlanta-based indie label Quality Control, whose architects have overseen the careers of artists like Gucci Mane and Jeezy. Through a joint venture with QC, also the home of better-than-the-Beatles trio Migos, Maco is signed to a record deal with Capitol Music Group and Motown Records. He is the first artist that will reap the benefits of the newly-signed deal, his debut is currently earmarked for a fourth quarter release.
I won't deny that Maco's most well-known single, "U Guessed It," which has amassed 33 million views on YouTube and nearly 11 million streams on Soundcloud, is a certified hit. [But in the last six months, Maco has released a whopping 71 new songs through his Soundcloud. Only two have cracked the 500,000 play mark and one of them is a freestyle over Manolo Rose's "Run Ricky Run." Signed or unsigned, major or indie, if more people heard "it," and they've had plenty of opportunities thanks to a tremendous output of new material, we'd see larger numbers on the board.]
You could make the argument that I'm too old to appreciate a younger artist like Maco. Maybe, but age hasn't stopped me from enjoying and appreciating the work of Joey Bada$$ (20-years-old) or Chance The Rapper (22-years-old). You could make the argument that living in Chicago means I am out of touch with the the Atlanta music scene, but then how do you explain Jarren Benton, Raury, Micah Freeman and Father on my iPod? Hell, some might even point to my skin color, put one arm around my shoulder and tell me that OG Maco isn't really trying to appeal to the 30-something, white male crowd. And while they would be correct, that thinking would also be shortsighted. You don't have to attend or enjoy the opera to recognize the talents of its performers.
The average fan could happily stop there, there's a point at which you simply like what you like, but it's literally my job to understand why. Why are popular artists popular, what is it others hear that I don't. So in search of the knowledge others seemingly possesed and I didn't, I asked our Twitter followers: "Looking for feedback -- what do you like about OG Maco?" Surprisingly for me, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
So to recap, OG Maco is an intelligent rapper who is extremely versatile, really says something in his music, can actually spit, has a great vocal and exudes incredible energy. My god. What have I been listening to?!? Am I accidentally following another OG Maco on Soundcloud? Could there be two of them?
I agree that his energetic, almost spastic, freewheeling style can be fun, but it's also often grating to my ears in large doses. Those Twitter responses did inspire me to really do a deeper dive though, and I found some real exceptions, like the song "Vanity," taken from his Tax Free EP with Pablo Dylan, which finds Maco nearly broken and emotionally vulnerable. Or the rather remarkable "Get Down," produced by Chuck Inglish. Still while he might be capable of making more meaningful music, the content is often lost in a barrage of bricks. A record like "No Mo" proves that Maco delivering a significant message is possible, but this occurrence is rare.
After perusing his Twitter timeline and watching several video interviews, Maco's obviously intelligent. Still, as much as I try, I just don't believe he has that proverbial "it." I can now understand why he has seen success up to this point, and while I might not personally agree, the reasoning that our followers provided as to why they enjoy his work makes sense. It's obvious he's more than a one-hit wonder, but I don't know how much more. Three record labels and XXL Magazine, who recently named Maco a 2015 Freshman, disagree with me. Maybe it's them. Maybe it's me. Or maybe Maco will truly blossom later this year, delivering an exceptional debut album and prove that the bulk of the work he's released up until now has been more the exception than the rule. Believe it or not, when it comes to doubting that an artist can make great music I'd always rather be proven wrong than, you guessed it, proven right.
[By DJ Z, aka @DJBooth.]