Summer is just around the corner but the music that’ll accompany our vacations, parties and scenic car rides is already upon us. It’s only natural to start to fish for the songs that will help soundtrack the hotter months. If you’re in need of updating those playlist cookouts — especially in time for Memorial Day — we’re here to help you sift through the best rap and R&B that the Baltimore/DMV area has had to offer so far this year.
Yg Teck & Peezy, ‘More’
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Park Heights rapper Yg Teck is on this list. He’s been the most consistent artist in Baltimore for about half a decade now, reaching a higher rung of the ladder every time he reappears. Earlier this year, he made one of his best career moves to date by joining forces with standout Detroit rapper Peezy for a joint mixtape called “Champain.” My favorite from it is “More,” which allows both artists to lean into their ambition. The production is stripped down, giving it a confessional feel. Peezy looks back at his humble beginnings and how he used them as fuel to propel himself to a better standard of living. Teck does the same but brings his story more full circle by also showing gratitude for how he’s now in a position to employ friends he ran the streets with.
— Lawrence Burney
Don Toliver featuring Brent Faiyaz, ‘Bus Stop’
R&B star and Columbia native Brent Faiyaz has had a quiet 2023 — which is expected after the release of his “WASTELAND” album last summer — but his appearances this year have had an impact. That’s especially true of his feature on Houston singer Don Toliver’s “Bus Stop.” The song, produced by Hit-Boy, Dpat and 206Derek, has hints of club music as it brings pounding 808s and vintage phone ringing sounds. It shouts out pretty girls who drive drop-top cars while eating lollipops, something straight out of a teenage love story. It’s also the type of song — bubbly, fun and upbeat — that begs to be played at cookouts.
Scudda, ‘Over Wit’
In late March, West Baltimore’s Scudda released a 10-track mixtape titled “Heart Off My Sleeve” and I haven’t been able to get the opening track “Over Wit” out of my rotation since. The first line explains a shift in Scudda’s mentality that influenced the tape’s title: “I took my heart off my sleeve, put that bitch in my pocket and stuck it right next to some bands.” It’s a poetic framing of how a person, through experiencing misfortune, can go into an emotional shell. Rather than being vulnerable, Scudda is admitting to tucking his feelings away to lean into the only thing that he knows can free him — a steady flow of income.
But deeper than the message being offered here, the song hits so hard. It’s produced by West Baltimore’s WhiteBoy (responsible for standouts from Roddy Rackkz, OTR Chaz, YMC Ant and others) and the sonic chaos is a perfect companion to Scudda’s stream of consciousness in which he questions who will be there for him if he finds himself locked up, dismisses people who haven’t experienced what he has but still offer opinions, and admits the difficulty of being consistently happy.
Paco Panama, ‘Look Out Boy’
Southeast D.C.’s Paco Panama isn’t for those easily spooked by the raw but very real trappings of inner-city Black America. He makes music that feels like audio adaptations of Donald Goines’ urban novels from the 1970s: addicts desperate for a fix, innocent children hardened by unfortunate circumstances, and dealers too wrapped up in their own mythology to recognize their wrongdoing. “Look Out Boy” is a masterclass on that approach. It’s quite literally about taking a young kid who’s in need of cash and promoting him from someone that alerts dealers of police activity to a trained hit man. In the process of telling that story, Panama lays out his own journey from a young snotty-nosed kid to a boss in a conversational approach that makes his music more effective. Like most of his best work, “Look Out Boy” really just feels like a guy having a candid conversation about how he’s been fully consumed by the neighborhood, unsure of whether he’s having fun or trapped in a cycle. Or both.
448 Riq, ‘Someday’
Last year I labeled 448 Riq as Baltimore’s rookie of the year. Based on his releases in 2023, it’s safe to assume he won’t have a sophomore slump. Though Riq and NASG Chaz dropped “Law 4,” an impressive collaborative project, my choice for his best song so far is actually a promotional single he released in March. “Someday” is a boastful retelling of Riq’s typical, everyday life, and while his flow may lack enthusiasm, the two-minute track is filled with excitement. There are mentions of everyone’s favorite deceased hustler, Rich Porter, Riq having to give fans who approach him the Heisman pose out of necessity for his personal space, and more events that should take place in a crime movie.
— Taji Burris
YMC Lor Tez featuring YMC Ant, ‘No Way I Lose’
YMC Lor Tez and YMC Ant have been making music together for years and every time they collaborate, the duo challenge each other to step up their game. “No Way I Lose” is another example. The production alone on the third track from Tez’s latest album is enough to induce listeners to nod their heads. In combination with fast-paced verses and hooks from the YMC rappers that contain lyrics filled with both stories of triumph and cockiness, “No Way I Lose” makes a case as one of their strongest joint efforts yet. Ant raps on the chorus, “I be the one, don’t you get it confused” — and with standout tracks like this, I’m sure we never will.