Yg Teck’s message is simple: To elevate, you have to be fully invested in your own evolution and have the wherewithal to stick with it, even in the face of doubt. He’s the essence of blue-collar rap, a testament to the possibility of a steady climb in a musical culture most currently obsessed with quick, meteoric rises to success.

His first project, “No Excusez,” was released eight years ago, and from that point, Teck’s impact on Baltimore’s rap scene has gotten progressively stronger as his name recognition outside of the region has done the same. Around 2019, Teck’s music grabbed the attention of well-known national publications — each championing his resonant tales of pulling himself out of a rough spot, combined with his assured, nasal delivery and textbook Baltimore accent. From there, he started grabbing featured verses from some of the country’s most sought-after street artists: Sacramento’s Mozzy, Memphis’s Pooh Sheisty, South Florida’s Jackboy, New Jersey’s Tsu Surf.

Other Baltimore artists have made similar strides in recent history. Late West Baltimore rapper Lor Scoota made early alliances with rappers like Philly’s PnB Rock and DC’s Shy Glizzy. YBS Skola worked with rap superstar Lil Baby early in his career while under Meek Mill’s Dream Chasers label and group. Bandhunta Izzy had songs with Atlanta’s YFN Lucci and L.A. rapper G Perico. These national networks and alliances have been actively spreading the Baltimore rap gospel.

But last week, Teck made a step that none of his hometown peers have: He released an entire collaborative mixtape with standout Detroit rapper Peezy, “Champain” — spelled in a way implying that the two are celebrating life after experiencing their fair share of heartache — instead of just pulling him in for a one-off feature.

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The 15-track project finds Teck and Peezy in constant conversation with each other’s musical approach. In content, they’re in the same universe. Both often reflect on the blessing of being able to overcome childhood hardships, having the ability to make money with their friends and the many ways they enjoy spending the cash. But where they differ is in sound and delivery.

Peezy’s style is indicative of his hometown, which has arguably been the country’s hottest regional scene for the past few years. In Detroit, rappers find a vocal pocket that appears to counter the beat while using comedic little jabs that come at you constantly as lightning-quick hi-hats and sample loops round it all out. Teck, on the other hand, has a style that’s reflective of Maryland’s geographic position: somewhere in the middle of East Coast-style storytelling and melodic musings from the South. The beauty of “Champain” is that Teck and Peezy regularly try their counterpart’s approach.

“Have You Ever” is obviously out of Teck’s collection of beats — booming bass with an obscure sample of soul music in the background. The song is a continuous question to listeners: Do you know what it feels like to move a ridiculous amount of narcotics without detection from law enforcement and spoil yourself with the profits?

The tape’s title track takes a cue from Philly legend Beanie Sigel’s 2005 hit “Feel It In The Air” and samples Raphael Ravenscroft’s “Whole Lotta Something Goin’ On” from 1979. On it, the two notice themselves maturing; Teck’s realizing that he’s been wasting time in the club while Peezy is disappointed that his closest friends still like running the streets instead of transitioning into a lifestyle with less stress. “80 Inch Screen” is from Peezy’s universe with rolling drums and a sweet violin on loop in the background. It’s clear that the song’s beat is a bit too fast for Teck’s comfort zone, but he still manages to make the best of it.

The apex of “Champain” is a track titled “More.” It combines industrial synths, piano play and bass for the foundation of a story about the hunger to strive for higher. In near-chronological fashion, Peezy starts the song reflecting on his childhood innocence and how, by his teenage years, he was already risking his freedom to liberate himself. Teck picks up from there with a more present-day perspective, tripping on how surreal it is that he now owns a shop where he can employ people, but, as a kid, he stood in front of neighborhood shops trying to make a quick buck.

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The track’s ethos aligns with what the tape’s mission seems to be, which is using the obstacles of your past to propel you to newer heights. At the end of it, Teck’s voice is so direct that it feels like he’s looking you square in the eye about your own passion as he asks: “If you ain’t tryna get rich, then what you doing it for?”

lawrence.burney@thebaltimorebanner.com

Lawrence Burney was The Baltimore Banner’s arts & culture reporter. He was formerly a columnist at The Washington Post, senior editor at The FADER, and staff writer at VICE music vertical Noisey. 

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