Only the Highs: Shy Glizzy’s “Young Jefe”

Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)

Rap music for a lot of listeners is fantasy music. The fantasy of being rich enough to have multiple solid gold chains, Versace shades, a Maserati and all that coming from drugs sold on a street corner. One can give it the description of “aspirational,” but being realistic Migos don’t live everyday like their “Versace” video. Yet I come back to that word listening to the young D.C. rapper, Sly Glizzy’s Young Jefe mixtape, which tape is almost too damn positive. Not that he is making “Based” music, but the tape enjoys and rolls around in the cocaine highs once the drug production has gun and the gun shots start ringing.

Glizzy glorifies these gnarly elements of his music, which makes every mention of someone’s passing even more surreal. But that surreality is heightened when he abstracts his music out a bit on “Awesome” that no matter one’s station in life makes it seem that anything can/is possible. Shy Glizzy on Young Jefe stepped more towards the auto-tuned slur of fellow D.C. rapper Fat Trel or the Chicagoan Lil Durk. His lyrical ability stays intact, and the ability for his songs to pull out memorable chorus like “Or Nah” or “I’ma Star” is more immediate.

Rappers have a tendency to say they’re making music for the “streets,” “block,” “hood” or whatever term that indicates they’re trying to have music for “the people.” Glizzy doesn’t make such a declaration because a song’s hook going “Yesterday I was standing on the block and a couple niggas got shot” makes such a boast redundant. He leans heavily on this particular aggressive stance, even though that quality of his music isn’t what makes it captivating. The fully self-actualization of Glizzy’s persona is what allows him to carry songs that speak to his street success, even if the factuality doesn’t matter much to the listener. Not that Glizzy isn’t allowed to make-up these tales whole cloth or that he cannot rap about these topics if they are in fact his life, but his talent isn’t that limited.

Maybe this is a dumb existential crisis discuss with Young Jefe—there is a song about feeling like a “Snow Angel” *praying hands emoji*—but as I keep noticing that these rappers aren’t my elders, and I’m in fact their senior; and I ponder what’s going happen to their careers and where will their music go next once the bodies are on the floor and all of the drugs are sold. For rappers that maintain relevancy into rap middle age (28-38) the next step is to either keep repeating the same tropes or maybe revealing in the consequences of these actions, which is fine (See: 2 Chainz and Scarface) but that just seems a bit fatalistic to be the only musical path. Young Jefe is a strong tape, but there is an unease as my phone is full of assertive tapes from black boys ability to stand above fictional, or not, bodies of other black boys.

The conversation around Chief Keef’s music in light of the controversy over Spin’s review of Finally Rich quickly dissipated. The critic in me kind of wondered if there should’ve been a little bit more considered in how many rappers go from no-name to local-fame to internet-meme-fame and just kind of peter out when another younger face pops up, remember when people cared about Huntsville. Especially when there is a certain amount of value given to these rappers that speak on street issues, but are quickly replaced by another who’ll provide an album carbon copy view of the world. That’s the same of any genre or professional field, new waves come and the old one must eventually crash and disperse, but eh. Young Jefe makes me want to say I owe Sly Glizzy more than to just forget him once a younger rapper with a more disjointed styles comes around, but maybe that’s just my own fantasy.

Link: Shy Glizzy’s Young Jefe

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