Rapper Le$ links the South to the West Coast in « Stay Down »
A few months ago, Le$ opened a new chapter of his career, by being the first artist to share a project (EP Distant) with Bun B, since the passing of Pimp C. With « Stay Down », the Houston rapper seems to send a message to his fanbase. Indeed, those who’ve been following the MC closely, have been fully covered and taken care of through his impressive work ethic in the 2010s. It looks like the 2020s will undergo the same standards. With L.A artist Polyester The Saint at the production of his new project, Le$ revives the ties existing between the South and the West Coast.
Little History Between The South and the West Coast
A. On the Artistic Plan
The bond between the South and the West can be traced back to the early 90’s through the rises of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records and Los Angeles’ Death Row Records. During the creation of Dr Dre’s classic album The Chronic (1992), Rap-A-Lot’s Big Mike, MR 3-2 and Bushwick Bill came to Los Angeles to take part in the artistic process. While Snoop Dogg picked up on Mr 3-2′s lingo, Bushwick Bill appeared on the track « Stranded On Death Row ». Big Mike almost signed to the Row but finally stayed with Rap-A-Lot, joining the Geto Boys before launching his solo career.
That whole nebula was one of the main roots of the connection between The West Coast and the Dirty South. Across the 90’s, the likes of Too Short, E-40, Tupac, Master P, Scarface and UGK, breathed more life to the ties by collaborating with each other. Overall, the deep connection between artists from both regions might have stemmed from the similarities in their lifestyles but also from the critics they endured from the East Coast.
To that effect, in terms of sound the ties were mainly crystallized around shared sensitivities towards Funk and G-Funk influences, those facets also appear in Le$’ music.
The link between the South and the West hasn’t been just artistic, it translated into a business aspect too. With places like Los Angeles, the Bay Area for the West and New Orleans or Houston for The South, both regions are among the pillars of hip-hop independent entities.
Way before the Internet or the streaming era, many acts from the South and the West built themselves to self-sufficiency by selling their products at mom and pops stores or « out the trunk ».
Eventually, their local success would push majors to come with distribution deals. In the West Coast, Too Short or E-40 are considered as pionneers of hip-hop independence. In the South, labels like Swishahouse or Cash Money and artists like Gucci Mane successfully applied the same standard.
The best example highlighting both West Coast and Dirty South‘s propensities towards independence might be Master P. After spending a few years in the Bay Area, the artist and entrepreneur went back to his native New Orleans and established his label No Limit as one of the most successful businesses of the music industry in the 90’s.
As we mentionned it on our last article, Le$ is totally embedded in that lineage with his brand and structure DIOS (Did It Ourselves).
Le$’ History with West Coast sound
Le$’ interest for the West Coast sound has always been evident. In his early-career, the MC used classic West Coast instrumentals like Ice Cube’s « You Know How We Do It » or Warren G’s « Regulate » for his mixtape Menace. In the same manner, the MC has also paid homage to DJ Quik, by rhyming over the Compton legend’s instrumentals in mixtape Quicktape.
Eventually in 2017, Le$ incorporated his West Coast influences in his own sound, for two of his most-reverred albums : Midnight Club and Summer Madness.
With such inclination towards the West, seeing Le$ join forces with L.A-artist Polyester The Saint makes a lot of sense. Coupled with their respective aesthetics, marked by their love for cars, both artists know how to set a relaxing, chill vibe they just have their very own way to go about it. Furthermore, right after Stay Down, the connexion is still going since Le$ appears on the first track of Polyester The Saint’s new album P-Legit : The Master Peace Album.
A. Le$’ State Of Mind
To kick things off, Le$ bursts out with the bouncy and twisted « Live 4 ». Touching on karma, burned bridges and his goals, the rapper strikes with a couple of memorable bars, they build up the intensity of his messaging. It comes to the surface when he hits like a lonesome soul roaming in the street in the wee hours, uttering in the middle of a troubled soliloquy : « Tell me what you Live for ? ».
« Every move gon’ come with karma know you’re making your bed » (« Live 4 »)
While « Live 4 » leaves a lasting impression by the tension it conveys, « Bidness » provides a smooth transition. Things cool down in terms of frequency but Le$ keeps the edge through his rhyming. He remarkably reaffirms his trademark « Forward Motion » and shows that he’ll never drift off from what he desires to accomplish.
Further in the project, the straighforward « Progress » adds to the drawing of where Le$ is at mentally. Growth is the objective. On the evolving instrumental, the MC welcomes the problems that come with money and rejects any kind of loyalty that would be influenced by opportunity.
B. Le$ and Polyester The Saint’s common ground
« Proof that you ain’t got to do it being something you’re not » (« In The Wind »)
Known for their ability to create smooth and relaxing sound, it’s mainly on that plan that Le$ and Polyester The Saint joined forces for « Stay Down ». Getting the last laugh on those who fronted on him on « How Bout Now ? », Le$ puts his effortless playerism on full display on « Get Into ». Behind his nonchalant flow, you can almost hear the delicate sound of the sea coming through Polyester The Saint’s instrumental.
Towards the end of the project, « Lane Switch » sets the radiant imagery of a summer night spent with a romantic interest.
Still in that direction, « In The Wind » might be one of the most interesting songs of the project, it seems to be the song where the link between Southern and West Coast influences is the most blatant. Added to Le$’ ease, the mix of a screwed-up hook with a subtle g-funk siren – two elements that are respectively inherent to Houston and Los Angeles – works like a charm.
« In The Wind » is the epitome of Le$’ approach, organic but never lacking in sophistication.
The Alarming Situation Of Houston
If the sense of lightness is absolutely prevalent in the project, Le$ gives glimpses of the obverse by shedding the light on the alarming and violent situation of Houston. This year, the local news report that the city has already recorded 225 homicides. Last year 400 homicides were recorded in the city.
« Ain’t got no plex but I’m still riding like I’m ready » On The Move
In just a few lines in « How Bout Now ? » and « On the move », Le$ makes us understand that not being involved in the streets doesn’t prevent one from cautiousness and that for the simple reason that « everybody isn’t eatin’. » Aware of the crab in the barrel mentality that seems to mark, at times, his environment, Le$ sums everything up with the chorus of « On the move », he « can’t be out there living like there’s nothing to lose. »
What’s next for Le$ : Late Night Club
To conlude the album, Le$ goes out with a bang in the boastful « Late Nights ». Poylester The Saint’s beat storms with psychedelic lights, it’s rythm feels like the adrenaline rush of speeding through traffic. Those colors suits Le$‘ gravitas perfectly. The MC goes out flexing his southern playalistic bravado, perpetuating the game that his OGs taught him, he is now one of them.
« Late Nights » refers to the part of life that the MC has successfully captured in his music and notably in the quintessial Midnight Club (2017). Thus, that last track gives a little hint on what might be next for Le$ since the follow-up of Midnight Club seems to be on the way, Stay Down.