There were catchy choruses, chest-rattling beats and solid lyricism, but a bare bones Sunday night rap show at DC9 was most interesting as an example of distinct regional flavors becoming more accessible than the closed ecosystems that existed before the internet.
G-Side has jumped from the unlikely launch pad of Huntsville, Ala. to critical acclaim, if not wide awareness. A subdued but appreciative D.C . audience got a solid dose of substance that may outlive the mild hype, since the group was refining its sonic formula long before bloggers took notice.
The G-Side formula starts with tradition. ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova are a duo in the classic and currently endangered sense: two rappers with pleasingly complimentary styles. That lineage extends from Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith of EPMD to the duos that paved the way for G-Side: Big Boi and Andre 3000 of OutKast, as well as Bun B and Pimp C of UGK. Yung Clova’s flow is declarative and blunt while ST 2 Lettaz is dense and frenzied.
The chemistry is seamless and allows them to convincingly cover material that goes from ’hood to aspirational, id driven to introspective. The new south is lyrical as well as trill and while contemporaries like Big K.R.I.T. get more attention for achieving that, G-Side’s got it down. “No Radio” was a great example, as the chorus sounds like a tear-up-the-club fight song, Clova delivered a trap rap verse then ST contrasted with a swiftly cadenced a capella about life struggles. Performing on the anniversary of the UGK rapper’s death, G-Side dedicated that tune to Pimp C.
The other half of the intrigue surrounding G-Side is their soundscapes, and it’s a testament to the duo’s charisma that they’re not outshone by the otherworldly compositions of the Block Beataz production team. Southern rap sounds became the base DNA for much of mainstream hip-hop before the electro/dance craze that erased innovation as well as unique regional traits. G-Side and Block Beataz counter that by including the heavy bass and 808 drum kits that are Southern signatures then blowing away expectations with indie rock samples as well as straight up low-rider spacecraft music. It best came together live on “Cinematic,” the title of which is the most accurate way to describe the emotive, up-tempo banger from their most recent album, “Island.”
It’s not clear whether D.C. witnessed the birth of the next southern rap sensation or a creative force trying to carve a space in an increasingly fractured and crowded rap landscape but G-Side doesn’t seem to be worried about anything except for doing them. So far, that’s more than enough.