“I came into this industry, and went headfirst
And had an open mind, believing that honesty works
So what I find behind the scenes is that the truth does hurt
Like your favorite rappers ain’t shit, money’s all they worth
And give a fuck about you unless you buyin’ they merch
How do emcees suffer with their political quirks?
And maybe rich white kids who grew up in the church
And never struggled in their life except for writing a verse, yeah
I came to get down, and I came to claim the crown
And destroy all these rappers who are raping these crowds
Of they virtue and innocence, soul and reality
And rolled back to Cali with what they stole from our sound!” -“Coast Guard”
California has one of the most diverse talent pools of emcees in the Hip-Hop community. Whether you’re hyphy, conscious, gangsta, or, in some cases, simply stoned, there is always something for every Hip-Hop head to relate to.
Enter Mestizo, one of the most talented emcees on Chicago-based indie label Galapagos4, and his new album “Dream State,” a rallying cry for the return of Hip-Hop drenched in battle rhymes, shout-outs, and nonstop Cali representin’. The aforementioned “Coast Guard” is a prime example of all of the above, where he admonishes the state of underground Hip-Hop and the theft of its organic sound in one verse, then gives shout-outs to virtually every nation in the world on the next.
And while the leadoff track is a great introduction to Mestizo’s rap career, it’s “Solid Gold” that allows us to receive a snapshot of the man behind the mic. The MC leads us on a tour through the entire state of California through a personal lens:
“One love to my cousins all around the Bay
Standing they ground from Santa Rosa down to San Jose
From Livermore to Concord, we divided up proper
From Richmond to Brentwood, I’ve got history in this place
This is where I learned to do my game, where it turned into a gang
And made an addict of my pops, and made a man outta me
And made my moms a single parent in the Villa Domes, an immigrant family
But all that changed
I learned to freestyle with my peoples from East Oakland
We’d have nine-hour ciphers, with lifers, and pass a mic
And pass a blunt, and tell the homies to keep smoking”
This trip down memory lane is accented with a Pete Rock-esque instrumental filled with thick guitar licks, subtle horns, and knocking drums provided by production team Julian Code (DJ Morse Code and Sean Julian), who give Mestizo a fantastic array of beats that complement the vast amount of subjects that he covers on the LP. From the spacey jazz riffs on “In the Clouds” to the rugged licks of “Even,” the duo gives Mestizo a fabulous group of backdrops to rhyme over.
For example take “Please & Thank You,” a joint that finds Mestizo unsuccessfully attempting to win back his woman. When she turns him down, he lashes out with a one-eighty that would give Vince Carter whiplash and a tirade that would make Too $hort proud, complete with a “biiiiitch” underneath the beat.
Though Mestizo’s strength is his honest, poignant storytelling, he doesn’t hesitate to dabble in a little braggadocio along the way. His subdued yet aggressive collabo with Typical Cat member and fellow G4 signee Qwel is an earnest attempt to show new jacks the errs of their ways; “Even,” on the other hand, finds him getting aggressive with Isiah and a reinvigorated MURS, who drops one of his hungriest verses in years:
“I’m outta here, outta my mind, I’m Audi Five
You outta ya league, and definitely outta line
Keep my mouth outta ya name, you out ya fame?
And I’m pushin’ you right outta the game
Before you get your whole soul snatched outta ya frame
Not out to explain, cuz you out-and-out lame
And I better not see you when I go out
Cuz I’m leavin’ in ‘cuffs; I ain’t leavin’ any doubt
I’m wipin’ you out, wipin’ you clean
Outta the scene, wipin’ the green right outta ya spleen
I’m mean, an outsider, outcasted
You don’t want war, you will be outlasted”
However, while battling is certainly not one of Mestizo’s weaknesses, it’s certainly not a strong point, either. He’s more at home when the subject matter allows him to access raw emotion, as on “Rosie,” where he switches from apologetic to angry in coming to grips with a female acquaintance’s rape. The album also ends on a similarly solemn note, where Mestizo awakens from his sleep crying and on the brink of a mental breakdown. Mestizo’s voice gradually weakens as the song progresses.
It’s fitting that an album called “Dream State” would end with Mestizo emerging from a nightmarish slumber, for the majority of its subject matter touches on the artist’s vulnerability as too few rap CDs do in today’s hypermasculine Hip-Hop climate. While it certainly mimics a dream state, with beats and rhymes that dart back-and-forth across every scenario in Mestizo’s mind, by the time that the album ends, you certainly won’t have any trouble trying to remember it.