New Houston Rap

Le$'s Olde English Dips Deep Into G-Funk

The moves Le$ makes are usually under secrecy. Either that or they largely go unacknowledged until the very last moment. For the past five years or so, L-E-Dolla has not only taken the assembly-line process of rapping about your life and ambitions, attaching it to production we’d either heard before or DJ Mr. Rogers. Le$ always hung around, elastic voice that kept a pretty solid baritone. And as he began building a legion, he started learning more and more that the best mode of operandi was to go alone.

Le$’s sound is a direct descendant of the unspoken but right-there marriage between the South and G-Funk — the bubbling horns and throat-snatching drums, built for subwoofers and riding as clean as possible. Putting together a best-of-Le$ tape would involve a sprinkle of all of what he represents. You’d get the uber-laid-back sounds that fit your greatest smoking session from E36. You’d have to add “G-Shit” from The Beautiful Struggle, where Mr. Rogers not only did his best DJ Premier imitation by chopping up vocal samples, but also lifted Dr. Dre’s “A Nigga Wit a Gun” from The Chronic. Somewhere, you’d have to drop “Caddy” from last year’s Steak X Shrimp Vol. 2. All of this beautifully weaves into the aesthetic that Le$’ lane, crafting music for the transportation of bodies all over the country, is ultimately his greatest natural gift.

But after five years of free music, Le$ decided finally that enough was enough. He had long served notice to Slim Thug that he would be a Hogg forever but needed to see the world beyond. He had flown with Curren$y’s Jet Life, kept his wings and amicably left to prop up Steak X Shrimp even more. Identity with Le$ has always been a big thing, almost in the same vein of a desperado whose reputation precedes him, except this desperado likes Whataburger-inspired merch. And zebra cakes. And custom cars. It would behove you to believe that Olde English, Le$ “proper” debut album, is the best tape to be released from the city limits within the fourth quarter of 2016. It would also behoove you to once more believe that Le$ is putting out some of the best music of his career.

Le$ didn’t arrive at Olde English talking a ton of smack; well, not explicitly. He got to Olde English by building upon these tapes that came off the assembly line like old-school Cadillacs. Older tapes like Settle 4 Le$ Vol. 1 & 2 could equate to the elongated ‘Lacs of the 1970s, which own the entire block and are just as wide as the same time. Le$ then trimmed the fat a little bit, switched up the engine yet kept the interior and rode even harder. “I ain’t got shit to prove,” he raps on “Broken Wings,” but he’s long been driven to prove plenty. How Olde English rides is mapped out in its genealogy, all the way from Rap-A-Lot classics (“Hand Of The Dead Body”) all to way to G-Funk historians. Remember, Le$ is the same dude who rapped a whole tape over DJ Quik classics some time ago.

Producer Cam Wallace’s idea of sonics is close to Le$’ approach. The funk is chunky, still has a bit of West Coast approximation to it, and unlike, say, Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!, isn’t a direct mimic of a far greater group (Mr. Glover made a Funkadelic album, plain and simple.) What the early sonics of Olde English give us are so much G-Funk that you’d fall in love with how smooth it is. Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “The Show Is Over” weaves in and out of “Desires?”. “Like Me” props up sticky-thick synths snatched from the tree of DJ Quik. “Sundazed,” the talkbox Sunday-night session from Beanz N Kornbread mixes both humble braggart bravado (“smoking on reggie til we got our little funds up/ now our life better but the weed’s the same”) with chest-puffing realization (“my type ain’t something that they make”). It rolls on as such.

The way to quantify a Le$ tape is rather simple. If I press play on it, how long will I go before skipping tracks? And if I do this, how long before I imagine myself as somebody seeking a Whataburger sponsorship?

However, Olde English is not an entire G-funk dedication from Le$. Somewhere about halfway through, it takes a hard right and dives into some of the atmospherics that made E36 a pretty interesting tape that transitioned Le$ from being a good rapper to a holy shit rapper. There’s “Fuck Love,” where Le$ sings (not like Gambino) a bit about a girl he used to date trying to teach her new man all of Le$'s lingo and style, a spaghetti-western guitar drive of a followup for “Hole In the Forehead.” I’m not wiling to argue that Olde English is a flat-out concept album in which Le$ stretches back to look through the clouds and filaments of his aspirations. But it’s not completely out of the question. The moment we arrive at “Pineapple Express,” where Le$ prefers watching The Office with his lady, is when things switch up. Still, the latter portion of it, ushered in by Z-Ro’s chorus on “Real” and the real Mike Dean-like vibes of “Nigga Blues,” drive it on home.

The variety of Olde English gives a ton of Le$'s fans exactly what they want. In a way, he's been feeding fans different meals off his menu for some time now. It’s what he does, an a la carte rapper hell-bent on doing just that. There’s no massive single attached to Olde English, no coddled beef or thinly veiled shot at someone. It’s just the music, which rolls smooth as hell through the winter. We’ll get to another new release, Doeman feeding the public another tape of heady raps, in a week or so. But Le$ has firmly established his lane — and nobody is even near him in the rearview.


BIGG FATTS, “Three Bad Bitches and a Stove”
What Bigg Fatts supplies the public is rather simple: he loves having fun purely constructing raps and wondering how your brain registers them. When it comes down to it, Fatts' Book of Ratchet will no doubt feature differing levels of raps, whether it be petty street shit or punch-you-in-the-throat raps. Fatts admitted on All Real Radio's The Tuesday Special that the "New Houston" aspect of Houston rap involved rappers spitting towards rappers, undercutting potential fans. "Three Bad Bitches And a Stove" is for diehard Fatts supporters — easy and to the point.

FAT TONY, “Legal Weed”
Overweight Anthony (credit: Shea Serrano) has spent a large chunk of his year in Mexico, building hip-hop relations while also outfitting himself for a future Presidency. "Legal Weed" gives most a crash course on the demonizing of weed through legislation and culture and why everyone is flipping course and advocating for weed. Fat Tony — brand ambassador, Third Ward Historian. Has a nice ring to it.

KIRKO BANGZ feat. Z-RO, “Money On the Dresser”
Recall how often I've said that Kirko Bangz can rap his ass off when the time calls for it. "Money On the Dresser," with its creaky organs and piano work, beckons for Kirko to lose his mind on top of it. SoundMOB provides Kirko with a template, and Z-Ro chips in without having to push a Kompressor. That third verse from Kirko? Might be one of the hardest he's ever given the public.

NOAH NOVA feat. JAY-VON, “Get Right”
Soul sample, nouveau boom-bap — key ingredients of what Noah Nova likes to cut through. "Get Right" is an admission of trying to peel off the scabs and pains of being part of the rap game without losing your mind. Jay-Von figures the best way to do it is not blow a 3-1 lead like the Golden State Warriors, one of 2016's greatest gifts.

Who do I thank for this grizzly-ass rap track? Mozzy has earned plenty stripes in his native Sacramento and Trae Tha Truth has this magnetic personality that draws him to equally gravel-voiced acts with messed-up back stories. "Ground Rules" comes from Mozzy and Trae's upcoming Tapped In tape (due out this Friday) and it's packed full of so much menace. Snoop Dogg here saying he'd be found next to the letter C is a reminder — this guy is next to Martha Stewart for a cooking show every week. Something none of us could have predicted in 1993.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell