For some inexplicable reason, most battle rappers have little to no career on wax.It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because by being a successful battler you have proven that you have lyricism, hunger, creativity, wit, and the ability to move a crowd. Allof which are extremely important to having a fruitful long-term career. Yet guys like NoCanDo, Murda Mook, and Okwerdz (who’s styles are all completely different) only have small cult followings at best. Personally I haven’t spent that much time following the battle rap circuit (although I did go to the Redbull Freestyle Battle in SF which was dope), but Locksmith has always been a battle rapper that I’ve wanted to see succeed.
It started as a teen when I watched him on some MTV battle competition, repping the Bay ridiculously hard. He get robbed by some garbage ass rapper named Reign Man, but despite the undeserved L, I was immediately a fan. There’s no way you can tell me that he lost with lines like “What I’m spitting is raw/you probably the only person togo to a sperm bank with a straw” and “step up and get smacked down/ I’ll treat you like the asian dude from The Neptunes and make you play the background”. Anyways, he then teamed up with fellow Richmond native, Left, and formed The Frontline. Backed by production from E-A-Ski, who at times was considered the Dr. Dre of The Bay, the duo dropped two dope albums and owned local radio, back when the stations actually attempted to dedicate time to local music, with regional hits like “What Is It” and “BangIt”.
After that, it seems like in a blink of an eye Locksmith, Frontline, and E-A-Ski fell off the face of the map. I had a homey who said he saw Left a few years ago on Telegraph all hipstered out with a mohawk and skinny jeans, but I could never imagine Lock going down that road. He seemed too angry, too prideful, and too raw to follow some lame ass trend.
Luckily 2009 saw Locksmith and E-A-Ski reemerge. While the quantity of music was limited, the quality should have more than satisfied fans. E-A-Ski has said he took a hiatus from releasing music to redevelop his sound, and while recently his audio has been sounding crisp, and less oriented to the club, it’s really Locksmith who has been coming off as a reborn artist. His focus must be ridiculous. Cuz on tracks like “RareForm”, he seemed to be rhyming every syllable. Yet the battle rapper in him made sure that at the end of the day, each line made perfect sense.
After another hell of long break, the end of 2010 saw the two release an in studio video for “You Have No Idea”. Needless to say after the first listen, I’ve had to replay this a lot. As a friend of mine said after hearing it for the first time, he’s a lyricist to the caliber that Bay Area listeners are not used to. In a mere 1:39 he has proven again his lyrical prowess while perfectly explaining the difficulties and frustration associated with being a Bay Area artist (and a fan of them as well!). Also, Ski Beatz left Lock hanging? That’s really lame, because I just bought (yes bought) 24 Hour Karate School, and minus Curren$y and a rapper or two on a few other tracks, the vast majority of the verses and spitters were average at very best. The beats were surprisingly shitty too. Long story short, among many other things, the album could have used some aggression. I hope verses like “You Have No Idea”, help convince Ski and other producers that they would seriously benefit from having Lock wreak terror on their instrumentals.
Locksmith’s solo debut, Frank The Rabbit, and E-A-Ski’s, Fifth of Skithoven, are both slated for 2011 releases. At least one reviewer is seriously hoping it’s a good year for the both of them.