LG: Synthesizing Street Sense and Smarts

18-year-old LG has always been ahead of his time. At the age of seven, while most kids were merely enjoying the food they were eating, the New Orleans native was rapping about it.

LG with Kevin Gates. Photo via Instagram.

LG (left) with Kevin Gates. Photo via Instagram.

Today, with two critically acclaimed mixtapes under his belt, he has hip-hop blogs buzzing and people showing love from California to Detroit. “I actually had five different people from Canada tweeting about my mixtapes,” says LG of his growing exposure and newfound fans. With an impressive sense of fluency for someone his age, an undying work ethic, and an ear for beats, it’s easy to see what all the hype is about. From the computers of hip-hop heads to the stereos blasting from porches and cars on Dumaine Street, LG’s music demands respect and admiration.

For LG, it all started as a young child running around with friends in his Fifth Ward neighborhood. He gives his older brother credit for introducing him to hip-hop and inspiring him to pick up a pen and a pad.

“I used to chill with my brother and his friends, and they’d be rapping and making mixtapes,” he says. “I’d be around observing, trying to build my own songs from what they were doing. I started writing when I was seven, and when I was thirteen, I started going to the studio to record and make tracks.”

Things didn’t go as planned right away, and as a young teen he had to struggle to gain acceptance. “People were doubting me. Telling me, ‘You need to fall back. You’re the little [guy], you’re not supposed to be rapping. You’re supposed to be the mascot for your brother and them.’ Then in school, people would hate on me—you know the usual stuff as a young kid.”

LG didn’t let the lack of respect from his older peers deter him from pursuing his passion. When Hurricane Katrina hit, forcing him to pick up and move to Baton Rouge, it only added fuel to his fire.

“Music was all I could do. I had moved to another town, and I wasn’t from around those neighborhoods. I didn’t know anybody. All I could do was write and make music.”

In May 2011, at age 16, LG released his first mixtape, Cinco, onto the Internet. “That’s what really got things going for me.” He speaks of this point in his life as the definitive moment in which he realized he wanted to pursue a career in music. “As I was writing it, and I saw how good the shit was coming out, that’s when I knew that this was what I was gonna do.” Positive feedback toward the debut project offered LG even more motivation. “When people really started feeding into it, that’s when I was like, yeah…”

“Three years ago I was down and out, and now I’m the one that everybody’s taking about,” he raps in an ode to the rocky road of underdog to top dog on the song “Venting”.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIozLSVWTfk[/youtube]

“Untitled,” the tape’s standout track, is a testament to the fact that LG truly is beyond his years. Proof is in the song’s opening lyrics:

My spit inspired by stick-ups and drug dealings
kidnap killings and single parents with troubled children
That raw shit I see daily fills me with ammunition
They label me a villain cause of how I express my feelings.

So much raw energy and insight from someone at the tender age of 16 is too often a rarity in rap today.

It’s a flow and lyrics like these that call to mind one of the young MC’s biggest influences. Hip-hop icon Nas released Illmatic, one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, a short time after he dropped out of high school in the ninth grade. Though LG still attends high school, it’s safe to say that the lyrics of both MCs spit contain the wisdom of someone with a great deal of age and experience. It’s only fitting that Nas plays a crucial role in the development of LG’s persona.

“It was [Nas'] whole style. It was different from every other rapper. He was an intellect, but at the same time, he was a street nigga. He made it known that you don’t have to be out here wildin’ all the time. You can be real smart and still have that street sense,” says LG as he speaks of his revered elder’s early recordings. He gives a shout-out to Illmatic and Nas’ It Was Written—an album he places in his top five all-time favorites—on the song “Cruise Control”, and features a Nas spoken interlude for the intro track on Cinco.

Less than a year after the debut of Cinco, LG released his sophomore tape, Synth Sounds, at the beginning of 2012. At only 17 years old, he’s proving that he’s not one for slumps. “You gotta be on it to get better and to always be relevant. My main focus as an artist is to get better.” He is never withdrawn to let you know that he stays on his grind. “They say I’m always up to something, man / I’m always chillin’, schemin’, plannin’—fuck it, I’m always buildin’,” claims LG in “Untitled”.

“I’m always writing. When we were just riding here in the car, I was writing in my head. During the week, after school, I write. Before I go to sleep, I thank god for letting me write as many raps as I wrote that day. When I get up in the morning, I’m waking up to a rap that I was rapping before I went to sleep. Lunch break at school, I’m writing. Then after school it’s back to writing again.” With no job, LG makes the trip to New Orleans every weekend to clock in at the studio.

New Orleans is in LG’s heart, spirit and soul. He is fully aware of the ways in which the unique city has shaped his individuality. “People from New Orleans are totally different than everybody in the U.S.A. and around the world. You get exposed to so much realness down here that others don’t get to witness. It’s pretty much the same thing in every hood across the country, but we just have a different type of logic down here in New Orleans. People are not like us, basically.”

It is this distinct identity that recently caught the eye of super-producer Timbaland at a SXSW showcase in Austin. Inviting LG up onstage to rap, Timbaland made a claim that LG would be the next signee to Lil’ Wayne’s mega-label, Young Money. Laughing, LG denies any sort of truth behind the statement. “That’s not true, man,” he says grinning. “I’m amongst a few of their partners right now, but I’m not signing with anybody. That was actually my first time even meeting him (Timbaland). He was just trying to hype it up. I’m not ready to sign a deal right now.” The possibility isn’t far-fetched. Fellow young New Orleans rapper Flow, who appears on Synth Sounds‘ second track, “Crash Landing,” was revealed as the latest Young Money member in April.

But even though LG will admit that he’s been approached by multiple labels with talks of signing, his main focus is on his next mixtape, which he hopes to release later this year. Based on his two previous works, we can expect nothing less than a vivid collection of street gospels and excerpts from the life and times of LG presented with an effortless flow and uncanny composure behind the mic. Still, LG isn’t too quick to count his chickens before they hatch. “Only time will tell,” he says in regards to the times to come.

 

LG headlines the NOLA Summer Jam this Saturday, June 23 in Treme’s Lemann Playground.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZE6M4_BmiQ[/youtube]

  • 9th

    This was a hell of an article. Good read

  • amanda

    Wow. what a great artist.

  • Nick

    we need more of him!