Kamauu featuring Adeline, "Mango"
“Mango,” an incredibly smooth duet between Prince George’s County-raised Kamauu and singer and bassist Adeline, may be the most clearheaded breakup song you’ve ever heard, if you’re not caught up in the funky production or Kamauu’s scratchy melodies. In his verse, he assures a lover that if she eventually finds someone else who makes her happier than he can, he’d find solace in that. On the hook he sings in crisp falsetto, “Cause I love you. And what love is. Never selfish. And of service.”
James K. Fonlon, "Chalk Zone"
Prince George’s County native James K. Fonlon is surrounded by love throughout the video for the stream-of-consciousness that is his new song “Chalk Zone.” And it’s the warm familiarity of congregating with friends — along with the music video’s tranquil lighting — that makes it so comforting to watch. It starts with Fonlon sparking a joint, the right side of his face already bathed in a soft purple light. From there, he can be seen rhyming on porches in Central Baltimore (where he’s based), swaying in the vestibules of apartment buildings, or bouncing in the center of his friend circle, with homies flexing Telfar bags. But musically, the song operates separately from what you see.
In addition to rapping in stiff staccato, Fonlon handles the song’s stripped-down production, putting emphasis on the beat’s exuberant synths and bass hits. Lyrically, his flow is acrobatic. At one point, he gets regional with a sneaky “crabby patty” metaphor. At others, he affirms his ancient lineage by referencing stone tablets.
In all, the video and song are a spot-on snapshot of what Baltimore’s close-knit, DIY rap scene has to offer. And with autumn now underway, “Chalk Zone” feels like that annual farewell to summer, when you get your friends together to enjoy the year’s last bit of nighttime sunlight.
Breezy Supreme, "Shut Up!"
In an interview last year, Maryland loudmouth Breezy Supreme said that his metal-influenced music is made strictly for fighting — something that he prides himself on being gifted at. His 2019 track “Shut Up!” — and its new music video, filmed at Fort Reno Park in Northwest D.C. — delivers exactly what the title suggests: It’s a less-than-two-minute, blood-boiling PSA directed at people who make threats behind his back but are too scared to approach him face to face. In sound, “Shut Up!” is reminiscent of the fight anthems that Memphis rap pioneers Three 6 Mafia regularly produced: songs with repetitive and instructive hooks that make you feel like you can run through fire and come out unscathed. The video matches the song’s energy, as it features Supreme and friends playfully brawling throughout.
Rico Nasty, "iPhone"
The video for Rico Nasty’s new song “iPhone” perfectly matches the chaos concocted by the critically adored producers 100 gecs. In just over two minutes, the song goes from trap to trance to pop-punk while the Prince George’s County native goes on about her power, her loneliness and how she keeps forgetting to keep her mask on in a pandemic. And the video takes more detours than that, its digital animation allowing Rico to take various shapes: She’s a Sims-like avatar, then a social media-filtered version of herself, then a blob of pixels trying to escape a television screen.
Like much of her music, it’s stylish, cathartic and fun — enough to make you want to break everything around you while still looking fly.
Zhariah, "B---- Boy"
During the early stages of quarantine, when it felt like everyone was streaming live on Instagram at every second of the day, Rico Nasty started hosting talent shows with her fans. The results were mixed. Some were too star-struck to form a sentence. Others performed absurd tricks with pets. But a few artists rose to the occasion and tried to leverage the opportunity to further their careers.
And when D.C. rapper-dominatrix-punk-rockstar-in-the-making Zhariah got onto Rico’s live in early April, she wowed her with her intense “CRAY!” ad-libs alone. The short-lived moment inspired Rico to tweet a link to Zhariah’s “Metal, Whips, and Chains,” a song that feels like it’d be the most on-brand selection for a “Saw” soundtrack in 2020: In between deranged shrieks, she raps about making men fall in line with whatever she instructs them to do.
Since then, Zhariah has been going viral for her BDSM performance art, and in August she dropped a thrashing follow-up to “Metal, Whips and Chains” with “B---- Boy.” Over production that feels like an ode to Lil Wayne’s late 2000s take on rock star rap, she goes in about her need for a man who provides her with nice things rather than a weakling.
YG Teck, "Bear With Me"
West Baltimore rapper YG Teck has been on a tear for the past two and a half years, supplying listeners with a healthy stream of mix tapes, freestyles and loose songs. He details the ups and downs of street life in Maryland’s largest city through triumphant anthems or melancholy recollections of tough lessons learned.
The adoration that he’s experiencing in his hometown right now is a testament to his willingness to peel back his layers. His music is filled with vulnerable reflections about his place in life, championing a slow-but-steady grind that anyone enduring similar circumstances can latch onto.
His newest track, “Bear With Me,” embodies those principles. Pensive in tone, Teck raps about the importance of moving with intention and making peace with being betrayed. And on the hook he makes it clear that he has his own share of internal work to do. Teck’s run underlines the fact that, regardless of mainstream accolades, there’s always space for people who are willing to give themselves fully to their listeners.