The fact that rapper Young Lay is even performing in Spokane Saturday at The Met is surprising.
In the past year, he has encountered more tragedy than most people do in a lifetime.
Last August, while driving through his hometown of Vallejo, Calif., Lay was shot in the head during an attempted robbery, a case of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The gunshot left Lay, who had nearly finished his major-label debut, in a coma for two weeks. When he awoke, the young rapper was afflicted with a mild speech impediment.
After making great strides through months of therapy, the artist is close to making a full recovery. (The speech impediment doesn’t affect his rapping.)
But then in May, just weeks before his outstanding “Black and Dangerous” album hit the streets, his fiancee was stabbed to death. Police are seeking three women in the killing, and the three are also alleged to have kidnapped the couple’s 1-month-old son and set the fiancee’s grandmother’s house - where she had been staying - on fire.
Young Lay’s producer, Khayree, says that despite the recent events, Lay is holding together.
“He’s doing cool,” Khayree said in a phone interview this week.
So far the suspects are still at large and Lay’s son is still missing.
“(The police) had the nerve to call us and ask us to put a reward up. We don’t have the budget. We’re a struggling record company,” says Khayree, whose independent label Young Black Brotha jointly released Lay’s new album with Atlantic.
At this point, Young Lay is focusing on finding his son as well as gearing up for his appearance in Spokane, his first performance in months.
“Lay really hasn’t been performing live,” says Khayree, who will be pumping out his sound on Saturday. “Lay’s working on his show right now.”
Young Lay mines the “playah” style of hip-hop. The sound drives socially conscious lyrics along a fat bass line and a laid-back musical backdrop. Similar to reggae, a laid-back genre itself, the playah sound uses the mellow, funky music to bait listeners and draw them into lyrics depicting the not-so-mellow lifestyle of living in Vallejo, a community struck with crime, racism, murder, AIDS and drugs.
On his album, Lay’s rhymes dance on the tip of his tongue with amazing rhythm and distinction. At times, he even borrows inflections from the old rapid-chatters of reggae music in the ‘70s.
“He’s got his own style for sure,” says Khayree. “His voice doesn’t sound like nobody else’s voice. Listen to a song like ‘Lawd Have Mercy.’ The flow in that song is incredible.”
One of the more riveting cuts on Young Lay’s album is “Got 2 Survive,” a song about self-preservation in which Lay and notorious rap star Tupac Shakur trade verses.
Khayree also produces Mac Mall, who is toting his second release and debut for Relativity, “Untouchable,” and will perform with Lay Saturday.
At the time of the interview, Khayree was in the middle of re-mixing Mac Mall’s new single “Let’s Get a Telly.”
Mac Mall is also an impressive artist, feeding his nasally executed lyrics with wisdom not common of a 20-year-old, insight gained through education and growing up fast.
Mall also lives in Vallejo, and he even appears on Lay’s new record.
“Ghetto Stardom” is perhaps the most powerful song on his new album. It’s about disenchantment with white America and politicians. It’s about not having a voice. “It’s a trap/ Uncle Sam keep cursing me/ rather have me in the pen/ than a university.”
Also performing are the Conscious Daughters (who have a new album out called “Gamers”), Body Snatchers and the Watts Gangsters.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT The Conscious Daughters, Mac Mall, Young Lay, Body Snatchers and the Watts Gangsters perform at The Met at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $35 for the floor and $30 for the balcony, available at all G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets and D&C; Hip Hop Stop, 1006 S. Perry.
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