Lately we’re dealing with a new generation of independent rappers who work the mic relentlessly. With the profitable mixtape era but a distant memory, they are forced to manage their output efficiently. They partition it into shorter releases and monetize their music through limited vinyl editions. Flee Lord is part of that wave. On “Loyalty & Trust Intro” he relays that he released three projects in four months on his label Loyalty Or Death, suggesting that it would have been four if he hadn’t taken time out for his baby girl in June. No worries, the fourth project did materialize later in 2019 with “RocAmeriKKKa”, his collaboration with Eto. In August “Loyalty + Trust” was the latest, a joining of forces with yet another workaholic, 38 Spesh, who provides the Far Rockaway representative with instrumentals.
If you don’t get the picture by then, Benny The Butcher of Griselda Records (a whole stable of workhorses) is quoted in an interlude midway into the EP, emphasizing the “work ethic” that connects their fraternity, besides the prerequisite of “being dope”. So with the diligence having been checked, what degree of dopeness does Flee Lord display, beyond the expected street pharmacist credentials? That’s a tough one because his quotable lyrics here deal exactly with the work ethic cultivated during his stint in the streets and now applied to the time spent in the studio:
“I used to hustle on a holiday, I liked that
Go home and put the knot away, be right back
Ain’t shit changed, I just be in the stu’
Make a lil’ change while I be in the booth
This is life-changin’ shit
Used to like weighin’ bricks
Now my wife play my shit
Got fans in the Caymans, even out in Sweden
They believin’ what I’m speakin’
like Fleezy, what he preachin'”
Noticed the contradiction? Between “Ain’t shit changed” and “This is life-changin’ shit”? Going by how frequently Flee mentions how music now dictates his daily schedule, we’ll assume that his life did undergo notable changes. In the under-a-minute “Kitchen Talk”, he navigates “shows in Chicago, features in L.A. / pullin’ up on Phonk [P], then we drivin’ to the Bay / I be rhymin’ for my pay, no more re-in’ up for lley”.
A consolidation of their track “Loyalty & Trust” (off Flee’s “Later Is Now” project, signifying the meeting of the Trust Comes First and Loyalty Or Death camps), the album of the same name sees Flee Lord and 38 Spesh pursuing their mutual interests in dusty, melodic beats and serpentine hustler rhetoric. Avoiding intense emotions, Spesh lays down tracks without too much regard for convention but still with cohesiveness in mind.
The two pass the mic on “Perfect Plate”, a song that embodies the prevalent hustler’s optimism by focusing on the prospects instead of the troubles. But where their immediate predecessors were preoccupied with status symbols, they are notably less obsessed with fashion and accessories. “I’m a hoodie nigga, never spend no bands on no clothes”, states “Hoodie Flee”, which is followed by “Not For Fashion” featuring Termanology, the veteran Massachusetts MC who has always been ardent about the connection between the streets and rap and whose ear for melody and sense for wordplay makes him a role model for 38 Spesh and, to a slightly lesser degree, Flee Lord.
Having built a relationship with Prodigy before his untimely passing in 2017, Flee Lord may not be a direct descendant of the Infamous Mobb Deep, but he’s enough versed in that vintage New York sound to fully know what it takes to make a classic and at the same time realize he’s not there just yet.