The absence of West Baltimore's Lor Scoota, who was shot and killed in June, and East Baltimore's Young Moose, who is currently in jail, were palpable last Saturday at the Royal Farms Arena where Baton Rouge's Lil Boosie and Washington D.C.'s Shy Glizzy came through for their "One Bad Azz Summer" concert. So much so, that even these two Baltimore favorites—not to mention, national stars—received the biggest applause when they acknowledged the city's street rap heroes.
It also helped that local artists such as GMG Tadoe, Lor Sleepy, GGL Slick, and CTM Ball performed to fans while pearling blunts and sipping liquor as they rapped along, setting the stage for Boosie and Glizzy. GMG Tadoe's set, although brief, stood out as the 'Dopeman' and 'One Call' rapper and friends danced around the stage with bottles of Patron, smoking weed like cousins at a big family reunion. Behind the barricade and in the stands, the crowd did the same.
Boosie and Glizzy mixed in tributes to Scoota and Moose, while also acknowledging the death of Freddie Gray. Between sets, Scoota's remix of Desiigner's 'Panda' played and everyone in the arena danced and recited the lyrics—the whole arena knew all the words. Scoota's fans now memorialize him with this song, which is reflective of his spirit as it seems to encompass most of his life's stressors, both positive and negative. In the song he talks about dealing drugs and dealing with haters. He also talks about designer clothes, sipping sangria in Harbor East, shining in the club, "fucking these nigga's bitches," all while taking over the city so effortlessly that he sounds like he's Harlem Shake-ing like he's Diddy.
When Shy Glizzy walked out on stage sporting an all-white denim outfit, the arena was full and those who had floor seats were standing in their chairs. As Glizzy moved around, he revealed an air-brushed memorial to Lor Scoota under the breast pocket and a large image of the rapper across the back of his jacket. Glizzy had appeared on the remix of 'Bird Flu,' pushing the song beyond Baltimore and to a larger audience. At one point during the set, Glizzy told the crowd to hold their phones in the air and he dedicated his song 'Funeral' to Scoota and Scoota's manager, Truz, killed just a few days after Scoota. Later on, Glizzy brought out other members of Scoota's crew YBS and pledged his support for the Baltimore collective.
"Skola up now, I said it," Glizzy declared after YBS Skola performed his song, 'Whole Lotta Money.'
When Lil Boosie hit the stage fans jumped over barricades to be on the floor. More people stood on their chairs and even more weed-smoke filled the air. Boosie went through all of his hit songs and some fan favorites such as 'My Nigga,' 'Distant Lover,' and 'They Dykin.' The peak of the evening came when Boosie played Young Moose's 'Dumb Dumb,' a song fit with a guest verse from Boosie on the remix. The song's context is more profound to Baltimore rap fans in the know: Back in 2014, Moose missed out on the Boosie show that Scoota opened because of an arrest. Moose's lawyer Richard Woods claimed the arrest was a targeted arrest to prevent Moose from playing that night. A judge later backed up that claim, acquitting Moose of drug charges tied to the 2014 arrest in March of this year. Since then, Moose, who has been in and out of jail, has been able to build a rapport with Boosie and signed with his label, Bad Azz Music Syndicate.
Later on, Boosie dedicated his song 'Fuck The Police' to Freddie Gray and all victims of police brutality. The crowd whimsically taunted insouciant security guards in the area, reinforcing the audience's disdain for anybody with authority who is potentially an oppressor. It was also another reminder of what is obvious to many by now: street rap is just as important and illustrative of the struggle as more palatable, commercialized, political hip-hop.
The show gave a taste of what the city's hip-hop scene could be—Boosie and Glizzy are both serious street rappers who've made it in an era when work like theirs is a hard sell. And moreover, they offer continuity to Baltimore. Both rappers have their finger on the pulse of the city thanks to their ties to Young Moose, Lor Scoota, and the larger rap renaissance happening here, with Tadoe, Skola, and others on the forefront.
In Boosie and Glizzy, you see reflections of Baltimore's most polarizing rappers. Moose's raw narrative of street life in Baltimore and troubles with the law invokes Boosie (who faced similar targeting by law enforcement); Glizzy does the same but emphasizes lavish living, aligning himself with Scoota. Both victims of the criminalization of hip-hop music who are trying to overcome the streets of Baltimore, Moose and Scoota couldn't be there. But both rappers' star potential shined through Boosie and Glizzy, who brought everyone out, lamenting the absence of Baltimore's best while reveling in the kind of music that continues to define this city.
It was an evening where the beauty of street rap's defiance was on display.