Welcome back to The New Wave, our monthly column that shines a light on the freshest talent in Los Angeles.
For the past three weeks, LA has prioritized commemorating its fallen hero, Nipsey Hussle. Beyond the city, Nipsey’s impact and influence can be found across the hip-hop landscape. It's in the cadence and philanthropic nature of rapper Kee Riche$ and his Get Rich brand, and acts like Correy C, Six Sev, and Fresco DBFLYG, who put on for Crenshaw with just as much ferocity as Nipsey did.
It's also evident in several artists below, who were quick to show their appreciation for Nipsey's contributions both to hip-hop and to their community.
Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Venomous insults and confrontational verbal assaults are nothing new in hip-hop, but they hit differently when they’re coming from Almighty Suspect. On many of his records, Almighty raps with a crazed, borderline deranged energy, cackling threats through the mic as if they were no more serious than harmless jokes.
For instance, take “BlowABag,” a record that finds Almighty in absolute menace mode. His voice maintains a commanding presence from start to finish, while hardly leaving space for you to catch your breath.
When Almighty steps to the mic, he needs little more than hard-hitting percussion and a synth or two to fill the background. He also prefers all unnecessary frills to be removed from potential production, allowing him to barrage listeners with his sinister sneers in a fruitless environment.
His biggest hit thus far, “WhereYoSafeAt,” showcases Almighty comfortably in this element, launching projectile missiles over rattling bass hits and little else. Occasionally, he chooses to bring more into the fold, contradicting his dark subject matter with brighter tones or old school samples. “Poppin,” released this April, revisits the twinkling synths from Paul Hardcastle’s 1985 song “Rain Forest,” adding a pounding bassline that gives it enough malice to fit in his catalog.
Never lacking confidence, Almighty’s verbal tenacity is matched only by his relentless output. Since the start of 2019, he has released a joint EP with AzChike titled Almighty Chike, and a new mixtape, That Was Then This Is Now, released earlier this month.
Every so often you'll come across an artist with such a singular sound and identity, you can’t help but marvel at their ambition and originality. HeyDeon, 22, is one such artist, and his 2018 EP Long Story Short is one such body of work, which showcases his budding talent as a bright force in the LA hip-hop scene.
Whether Deon is preaching positivity or hitting notes with his amiable vocals, warmth shines throughout Long Story Short. “No More,” especially, stands out, with its minimalist yet infectious percussion, adding original textures that hook you instantly. “UrName” is noteworthy as well, as Deon’s encouraging lyrics slide over the stuttering claps and hi-hats while beautifully complementing the woozy guitars.
Deon began 2019 with two bubbly, trap-influenced records in “Dreams” and “Peace,” the former of which was premiered earlier this year by Vince Staples on his Ramona Radio show. Still, the Long Beach talent is far more adept in natural, vibrant environments that match his energy, as proven by his latest single, “Nothin’ 2 Prove.” Summer will arrive early when Deon’s pleasant melodies hit your eardrums.
“Nothin’ 2 Prove”
Everything Pure Luxury does is ratcheted up with an intensity that is off the charts, and his rise through the Los Angeles hip-hop scene is no different. Following the viral success of “Not Yo Nigga” in September 2018, Pure Luxury delivered several singles doubling down on his formula of flipping old school samples at a breakneck pace.
Lyrically, Pure Luxury is equal parts abrasive and enthralling, packing charismatic inflections into every bar to add engaging bursts of color. Teaming up with Nasty Nas and MCM Raymond on “F*ck a Hook,” whether he’s declaring his greatness or asking where the bass went, he’s an unmistakable spark plug. Elsewhere, triumphant horns on “Now Drop” feel like a trip back to 2005, aptly accentuated with Fatman Scoop drops.
Pure Luxury kicked off 2019 with YG as support on his “STAY DANGEROUS” tour, taking his high-energy live show across the country. At present, he's turning heads faster than the beats he raps over; by the end of 2019, he might be the next household name in Los Angeles.
"Not Yo Nigga"
Introspective, mellow and highly reflective, Maxo, 24, makes music for the moments when it’s time to soak it all in rather than rush ahead. Maxo doesn’t beat the words into your skull but instead lets them seep into your soul, making excellent use of lo-fi sounds to accentuate the emotion in his earnest voice.
Maxo meanders through the full range of these emotions on his recently-released album, LIL BIG MAN, and in the process, easily connects with listeners with his coming-of-age story. “Crown Heights” is the soundtrack to his peaceful meditation, accepting uncertainty and finding comfort in the spliff between his fingers. Percussion on “Kinfolk” is much more rousing, giving the song a harder edge that’s mirrored in Maxo’s vocals and rhymes. On “Quiktoldme,” an eerie chill lingers in the a-melodic keys wafting through the air, as Maxo frantically spills his mind before stretching out the chorus to ensure Quik’s advice (“If it don’t make dollars, just make sure you get your people straight”) sticks with you when it’s all over.
Hopefully, Def Jam, Maxo's current label home, gives him the resources he needs to grow his vision further; without question, Maxo is ready to make noise.
AzSwaye first struck gold in 2015 with “Ride With My Glock,” featuring a syrupy delivery and a drawling hook that quickly became a turning point in the city’s sound. Compare that record to the recently-released “Pop Shit” and you can easily hear his development, rapping with sharper poise while unfolding inventive wordplay in the song’s lone verse.
In 2018, the 23-year-old delivered one of the strongest bodies of work to surface in LA in SwayeFTR—that is until it was scrubbed from streaming providers. At present, the project lives as an instrumental-only "tape" hosted by its producer, JoogFTR.
Still, several smaller EPs from '18 showcase what AzSwaye can do on the mic, especially GotDamnitSwaye. On “100 Shots Pt. 3 / Leave Me Alone,” perhaps his most lyrically impressive cut in 2018, Swaye employs his flow over two equally thunderous beats. From beginning to end, you'll be hanging on for dear life as Swaye unloads his proclamations from within the inferno, fitting in metaphors at every turn to provide vivid imagery to match the production.
Swaye is the angry fireball of AzCult, holding natural chemistry with fellow shit-talker (and former New Wave selection) AzChike.