When I first met Blimes and Gab in Portland, Oregon, last November, they were telling stories about their love of Martinelli’s apple juice. The duo—comprised of California rapper Sam “Blimes Brixton” McDonald, 31, and Seattle rapper Gabrielle “Gifted Gab” Kadushin, 29—had 20 minutes to spare before rehearsing their opening set for Portland-via-Cali artist Dodgr’s farewell show. It was my third time in Portland, a city I didn’t know outside of my sister’s college and a few key landmarks.
As it turned out, the pair were naturals at breaking the ice. Blimes and Gab initially met via Facebook—neither remember who added who first—through the industry grapevine before connecting in-person in Seattle. “She was the mayor; everyone knew who she was,” Blimes remembers of Gab showing her around town, introducing her to her Moor Gang affiliates. They clicked immediately, solidifying a friendship that would be put to the test shortly after; a drunk woman kicked the side of their car and started a fistfight with Blimes before Gab intervened. “From then on out, it was family,” they both said through laughter.
Blimes and Gab established their bond through this spontaneous act of trust. Their effortless chemistry is on full display on their debut collaboration, “Come Correct.” They bob and weave through each other’s bars like seasoned boxers, closing each other’s loops while creating their own. “I’m goin’ for your clavicle, I’m ‘bout my capital / It’s murder tactical,” Gab raps without breaking a sweat.
“Come Correct” was recorded in 2017 yet didn’t gain traction until a year later when the video, shot on location in Seattle, went viral across Facebook and YouTube. “It wasn’t even our decision to become a duo,” Gab explains. “It was because of the internet. They were like, ‘Okay, you released this as a duo. Where’s the album at?’ It made perfect fucking sense, so we just made it official.” The two rap pugilists had become a unit overnight.
Seeing Blimes and Gab work their magic on the Roseland stage after our initial November interview only confirmed their ability to move in lockstep. After introducing themselves as “Aunties Blimes and Gab,” they got right to work, bouncing lyrical acrobatics and melodies off of each other. When it came time to perform “Feelin’ It”—a single that was recently featured on Issa Rae’s hit HBO series Insecure—the crowd response was louder than the weed wafting from the VIP lounge.
“Feelin’ It” is a party record for the kickback to end all kickbacks. Blimes and Gab rap every detail, from the hoopty they pull up in, to the taco spot they go to afterward, in a showcase of bars and melody fit for a summer festival. It’s a rap jingle as humble as it is catchy, and the crowd was eating it up.
Five months after the Portland show, I caught up with Blimes and Gab over the phone for much longer than 20 minutes. “I very much look at myself as a regular motherfucker,” Gab tells me when I ask about the song’s impact. The duo is now on the precipice of their debut album Talk About It—releasing in June via The Orchard—and they’re ready to spin regular situations into epic musical forms.
“‘Come Correct’ was the catalyst for all the conversation,” Gab continues. “When people see that, they’re like, ‘Okay, they can rap, but what else can they do?’ How we come with shit is something to be talked about, and it was a no-brainer to name the album that.” What do you do when the stakes are high for a debut set off by lightning in a social media bottle? Blimes and Gab have a quick answer: expand.
“[Talk About It is an] answer to the skeptics, for anyone who has something to say about whose style we’re too heavily influenced by,” Blimes asserts. “This album has songs from almost every subgenre of hip-hop.”
Across 16 tracks and 45 minutes, Talk About It doesn’t lack diversity. The album opens with “Sacred,” a crisp and funky ode to the focus and sisterhood Blimes and Gab have come to confide in. “How I’m gunnin’, you don’t even see me comin’ til you’re near it,” Gab states before Blimes sums up their relationship in two bars: “Gabby got keepin’ it 100 down to a science / She Bill Nye-in’ and I can comply with it.” They sound less like rappers than your two favorite homegirls who can toast and roast with the best of them.
The duo’s friendly energy bounces off of the album’s varied musical palette. “Shellys (It’s Chill)” is a cheeky disco romp straight out of Anderson .Paak’s early career playbook, featuring just as much singing as rapping. On the standout selection “Hungover With You,” they relive nights and mornings shacked up with flings set to a slinky R&B piano riff and deep bass. Singles “Magic” and the aforementioned “Feelin’ It” fall in line with the current wave of pop-rap hybrids dominating space on playlists the world over.
Anyone looking for a clean-cut barfest can check out the kinetic “No Samples” or closing track “My Way,” where Blimes and Gab—accompanied by legendary Philadelphia rapper Bahamadia—revel in charting their paths to success. “You can do you and I’ma do better / Too blessed to be stressed, I am the seventh letter,” Gab says, crowning herself a G.
Too, Blimes and Gab are particularly proud of the various skits on Talk About It. Five of the album’s 16 tracks paint days in the lives of the duo as vividly as any episode of Insecure. The best of this bunch is “Shelly,” a tribute to a particular form of club-hopping white woman, and “Talk About It Skit,” where a trip to a record label office ends with Blimes and Gab cursing out an executive who wants them to get breast and butt implants.
Adding standalone skits can be a dangerous move in an era where streaming numbers regularly dip below 1,000 plays for such tracks. Blimes and Gab don’t care. They grew up on Eminem, Ludacris, and Cam’ron albums chock full of jokes and are interested in carrying on the tradition. “It didn’t feel right doing what we do from the genre we’re inspired by and not including skits,” Blimes states. “Skits like those gave you context on what it was like to be a hip-hop artist outside of the booth. That’s what we wanted to portray.”
As for their all-important social media presence, Blimes and Gab regularly host giveaways and events with fans on Instagram, even before COVID-19 made those strategies requirements. They also share interviews and, because they live in the same apartment complex, make their own fun IRL. When I ask about their chemistry, the answers come swiftly.
“Being in a duo is like being in a marriage,” Gab elaborates. “You’re learning this other person, and you’re around them all the time. You have a business together now, and it’s deeper than a friendship. Speaking as someone who’s personally not used to being a part of any kind [of] duo like that, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. It happened so smoothly.”
“What I think is the most special is that Gab and I have such different life experiences,” Blimes adds. “You get to hear both of those different perspectives on the same song, on the same episode of the same show. From the queer white woman who’s concerned about self-acceptance and love and wanting to uplift folks who may not feel a part of because I didn’t always feel a part of. From the Black woman who’s from Seattle, a city rapidly being consumed by gentrification. Bringing both of our experiences together on the same record brings a little something for everybody.”
From Portland to New York, I saw Blimes and Gab’s confidence firsthand, especially during the Brooklyn stop of their Auntie Up tour last November—their first nationwide headlining tour as a pair. They set up the stage like a living room, complete with carpet, couch, and wall tapestry, the perfect mix of casual and professional. When Gab says, “I ain’t a vet but I’m workin’ on it” on “Run Me My Money,” I think of how smoothly both she and Blimes transitioned between rapping, singing, and cracking jokes during one show. The cramped Baby’s All Right stage became just another hangout spot, a place for two rising stars to comfortably talk their shit. Securing the bag has never looked so fun.