Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q form quasi-supergroup Black Hippy
A generation ago, the members of Black Hippy would've all probably gotten started in a group. After all, from Ice Cube to MC Eiht, Dr. Dre to W.C., many '90s West Coast legends honed their skills by bouncing ideas and rhymes off of others. Even Snoop Dogg got his start with Nate Dogg and Warren G in the short-lived 213.
But like most of their generation, Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, who are Black Hippy, have blazed solo trails to various degrees of success. All of them are regularly and rightly cited among Los Angeles' top underground rappers, but none has seen much in the way of a commercial breakthrough -- though Warner Bros.-signed Jay Rock has dropped several singles that have circled the margins.
Black Hippy represents a consolidation of the members of the Top Dawg Entertainment crew, and it's a wise decision. Unlike many hastily formed groups, the members boast the sort of hard-earned chemistry that comes from having rapped together for a long time. Effortlessly and playfully trading off every eight bars, the video for "Zip That Chop That" depicts them in their element: smoking blunts, riding bikes and rambling around downtown Los Angeles.
The different vocal tones and styles keep things lively, and former G-Unit in-house producer Tha Bizness delivers a gently knocking and righteously understated beat that complements the group well. Though it remains unclear exactly what is hippie-like about smoking blunts and listening to Biggie adjacent to the Los Angeles Theatre, "Zip That Chop That" is one of the most effective advertisements for the power of the hip-hop group. It captures four talented rappers, who occasionally float rudderless solo, and harnesses them into something focused and worthy of the rewind button -- or a half-dozen YouTube replays.
And now we wait for the album, or at least the mixtape.
-- Jeff Weiss