“This thooka is my wand, Tay-K fairly odd”
At the age of 17, practically a veteran in by Soundcloud rap standards, little Texan fire-breather Tay-K sits in a San Antonio jail facing not one but TWO capital murder charges. Last year while out on house arrest for the first murder charge, the then-obscure rapper pulled off one of the most successful publicity stunts in recent times, catapulting himself into the charts and national newspapers literally overnight. The story has become the stuff of modern legend, but in case you’re not down we’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes: One day Tay-K cut off his ankle monitor and sent the now-famous tweet: “They gon’ have to catch me on hood”. In other words, Tay was “doing the race” and almost immediately a buzz kicked up online for the fugitive rapper. A different kind of buzz kicked off in the law enforcement community complete with all-points bulletins, old-west-style wanted posters, and regional news segments warning of an armed and dangerous, but still baby-faced, heartless killer kid on the loose. Taking advantage of the situation like only a Millennial could, Tay-K uploaded a video for a new track, appropriately titled “The Race”, which featured the confident, tough-talking teen smoking a blunt next to his own wanted poster, flashing handguns that most definitely weren’t your usual rap vid props, and exhibiting a deft ability for flashing multiple gang signs that bordered on magical.
In a perfect bit of timing, Tay-K was nabbed by the opps on the same day the video appeared on Youtube. With the twin angels of mainstream press coverage and viral Twitter chatter sitting atop his frail shoulders, Tay-K found himself instantly on top of the rap scrapheap. What could be realer than a kid with actual murder charges? Tay’s mugshot alone became a sensation, his child-next-door face clashing harshly against the death penalty charges. This was no Tekashi or Lil’ Pump. Not a face tat or died dread in sight. And that back story! A kid rhyming about being on the run from the run from 12 who was literally on the run from 12. “Fuck a beat, I was tryna’ beat a case. But I ain’t beat that case, bitch I did the race.” No truer chorus had been penned in 2017, and the song became an instant anthem. Millions upon millions of YouTube views and streams, headline coverage from the rap rags to the New York Times front page , record deals, and finally a true gold record for “The Race” that will most likely turn to platinum by the time this piece goes up.
Something that was sorely overlooked in the midst of the hype storm was the undeniable fact that the kid had skills. If “The Race” hadn’t been a good track then it certainly wouldn’t have had much value beyond its back story. Instead Tay-K exhibited a compelling and original style that cut its own distinctive lane through the creatively wide-open Soundcloud scene. Tough but quirky, Tay-K spit the type of hyper-real gun talk that perks the hooded heads of East Coast oldschoolers and the low-riding West Coast Crip walkers, but there were just enough strange intonations and digressive tangents to excite disciples of the strange new colored-hair-and-tight-jeans hip hop church. On “The Race” you got the sense that Tay-K was really just developing his core style, and now that he was in jail most likely forevermore we would never see what he one day could have become as an artist.
For haters like myself who assumed Tay-K would be relegated to one-banger-wonderville due to his legal circumstances, the kid proves us dead wrong within the thrilling first 15 seconds of “Hard”. The first song released on the new No Jumper/Atlantic label kicks off with the type of low-ringing, ominous keys that make your mouth water with anticipation of the beat drop. When it does, we’re met head on by a fiendishly on-point Tay-K swerving all over the track like he rightfully owns it. This verse had been floating around for some time on the fringes of the hip hop forums, and it’s given an amped-up, echoing treatment here that frames it in just the right vivid light. This is prime ignorant gutter rap right here. “You was on some opp shit, I was cruisin’ down a n**ga block with the chopstick” Tay enunciates with great vigor, landing with hard stops right on the beats. It’s horrifying subject matter for a mere child for sure, but this is where the key to Tay-K’s mass appeal truly lies. Just like those videos of South American child soldiers smoking cigs and toting submachine guns, you may shake your head but it’s hard to look away. A line such as “You gon’ shoot a little, we gon’ shoot a lot” would most likely come off as a limp boast in the hands of, say, The Game, but with Tay-K it’s spit with a youthful giddiness that puts it deep into the classic line pocket. And does anyone else find it kind of touching how Tay shouts out his Crip mother and convict father on the “My mama so hard, my daddy go hard” line? No? Ok, I’ll just walk that one back then.
It makes perfect sense that this song is out on Atlantic Records, the longtime home of Led Zeppelin. Anyone in search of good old-fashioned 70s rock decadence should steer far clear of white boys with guitars these days. The rappers have well-and-truly taken the Jimmy Page torch and are off and running with it. “Rock star n**ga, now I need a rock b**ch” Tay-K snarls here, signifying a truer understanding of the AC/DC shirt he rocks in “The Race” video than most of the similarly-clad rap new school.
Hot new sensation Blocboy JB shows up on the second verse, just as he has on seemingly every rap track over the past couple weeks, dropping a perfunctory series of drawls hard enough to not slow down the song’s momentum. But really this is Tay-K’s show, and when he steps back in for the last chorus it feels like the return of a wayward but loveable cousin you’ve missed while he was locked up. “We want beef, not veggies, not squash, b**ch” With its glitchy, low-end punk rumble, careening, expansive synths, and earth-scorching nihilist glee, “Hard” is indeed a carnivore amongst the present plant-chowing rap pack.
Look, there’s no way Tay-K is getting out of prison anytime in this lifetime. It’s been confirmed that the kid wasn’t the triggerman in either murder, but this is Texas we’re talking about here and they cast their conspiracy nets far and wide in those parts. Yes, it’s a tragedy. RIP to the two dead. RIP to the life of a sensationally talented young artist who, due to the natural DNA of his life setup, never really had a chance. At least he’s left a behind a legend that will surely thrive, 2Pac style, for many decades. “Hard” will play a major role in that legacy.