As a mesmerized crowd watched on in Austin, four young MCs stood on the stage and gave everything they had to offer as a collective. They poured their souls out and practically bled on that stage for the people watching. The acts that came before them had no choice but to bow out and give them the title of best performance of the night. The top dogs had arrived, and South by Southwest would be taken over by Black Hippy. The four headed monster from Los Angeles, consists of Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul. All four individuals are housed under the Top Dawg Entertainment label, and all four have been receiving praise as the new faces of West Coast music. Each MC brings a different characteristic of hip hop to the group. Jay Rock’s straight-laced gangsta style holds down the group in the same respects as NWA and Death Row Records. Kendrick Lamar stands as possibly the most daring in the group with his ever-changing flows and risk-taking personality. Both Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul manage to find a happy medium between the traditional gangsta rap sound and the new school focus on lyricism. All four come together to form a powerful entity in Black Hippy. Opting for unity over egos, Black Hippy is turning back the time to when hip hop was dominated by groups.
When listening to Black Hippy, the most remarkable thing is their unique sound. Placing an emphasis on lyrics, their production is stripped down in may cases in an effort to showcase their individual flows. While many West Coast artists prefer typical bass heavy sounds, Black Hippy has chosen a much more organic sound. Real instruments and low fidelity samples paint the pictures for these MCs to speak on. With little care for radio, the group spits straight bars leaving catchy choruses as an afterthought. On “Zip That Chop That”, they trade bars with each other and bring the cypher to the listener. Speaking of cyphers, Black Hippy has shown their affinity for freestyles with numerous videos and impromptu battles. Their strongest asset, Kendrick Lamar, tears through syllables and strings together never-ending rhymes that would make Nas envious. Jay Rock’s aggressive presence gives the group the edge it needs, while Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul bring style and real swagger which carries through all the way to the group’s appearance. If real hip hop exists on the left coast, it’s all being contained inside Black Hippy.
Fans looking to explore the group’s music can begin their journey with Jay Rock’s Black Friday and Kendrick Lamar’s Overly Dedicated. Both mixtapes break any preconceived notions of what West Coast music should be. While each member of Black Hippy enjoys solo success, fans can only hope that the foursome remains grounded enough to push forward the outstanding music that they have created. Living in an era where Young Money dominates the radio, and Slaughterhouse has recreated the “super group”, Black Hippy reminds us that originality and creativity are still alive.
– Victor Sandoval, Strange Music Blogs Contributor, @VicMSandoval