His flow is undeniable. His lyrical landscapes bring to mind the depth of a Donald Goines novel. His sly humor is as biting as a Chris Rock stand-up routine. That's right, Guerilla Black has it all – and delivers it lovely – on the microphone. After
heating up the streets of Southern California with his "Hood Affiliated Mix Tape Vol. 1," the Los Angeles rapper (government name: Charles Tony Williamson) brings us Guerilla City, one of the most talked-about debut albums to surface in the hip-hop universe.
Producers on Guerilla City include such street music luminaries as Jazze Pha (Big Tymers, Nappy Roots, T.I.), Carlos Broady (The Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim, Nas), Red Spyda (50 Cent & G-Unit), Fred Wreck (Dr. Dre, Snoop, Westside Connection) and Mario Winans (R. Kelly, P. Diddy, 3LW). Among the guest appearances on the album are King of the Dancehall Beenie Man (on the blazin' hot street anthem "Compton"), Nate Dogg ("What We Gonna Do"), Jazze Pha ("Girlfriend") and Mario Winans ("You're The One").
One track that had already garnered G. Black plenty of attention is "Guerilla Nasty" (featuring rising ingénue Brooke Valentine), a driving Jazze Pha-produced cut that showcases his verbal gymnastics. The street creeper "Hearts of Fire" (produced by Broady) was already getting attention at the mixtape level. Now that the sizzling "Compton," has surfaced, G. Black is poised to explode. The cut, a head-nodding ode to the streets where he grew up, features Beenie Man, and has put the artist on the map. The success of these tracks have set the stage for Guerilla City – landing in record stores September 28 – which arrives as the L.A.-based artist (who was discovered by original gangsta Ice-T) continues to solidify a strong base in the underground mix tape world.
The fact that the artist has spent quality time in several markets – Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Miami & Atlanta among them – on his grind, meeting deejays, clubgoers and consumers, speaks to his passion for getting his message out there. The press has come to the table early to explore the story of Guerilla Black. Early features on this exciting new artist include The Source, XXL and Smooth. On the television side, he has appeared on Playboy TV, and MTV showed early interest with a 'You Hear It First' profile.
"The industry just isn't the same," 27-year-old G. Black explains. "A lot of cats, they'll throw an album out there… My thing is to give people 50 mix tape joints so that when I do come with my album the fans will feel me on a much bigger level. It'll be like I've done one album, but I've got three albums worth of material out there."
Fortunately for G. Black and his fans, he has a wealth of material to draw from. Born in the Chicago area (Jolliet, IL), his family moved to Mississippi before he hit puberty. After one of his uncles boasted of the economic promise waiting in the West, G. Black's mother moved the family out to California. That move ended up being a bit premature, and the family was homeless for a spell. They bounced between shelters in Long Beach for a minute before finally making a home in Compton, when G. Black was about eight years old.
At age 11 or 12, G. Black was clearly influenced by the rampant gang activity in his Compton neighborhood. By that time, he was already hustling, "stealing cars and things of that nature," he says. He never forgot about living in homeless shelters, however, often falling asleep listening to NWA, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Rakim and the like. "Even though I was young, when NWA came out, they made me feel like that ultimate nigga. I was also feelin' Fat Joe, Kool G Rap, and my old school R&B joints."
His younger brother, Hot, who had already been writing rhymes, urged his older sibling to do the same. It lit a creative spark. "I just started rhyming here and there, kickin' a bar here, two bars there," G. Black says. "Before I knew it, I had raps and just kept rhymin.' I just started logging them in my brain on a daily basis."
To this day, G. Black never writes down his rhymes, preferring to keep them in his head. "Back in the day when me and my girl would argue, she used to throw away some of my notepads that had my rhymes in them," he explains. "I learned to keep it all up top, that way no one could ever take them away from me."
G. Black got a record deal early on, but ended up being so distraught with the way the industry drama unfolded that he temporarily gave up his hip-hop dreams. "It was a hard thing for me to do, turn my back on something that I really, really love," he says. "I love rap. I love to hear someone spit verses, especially when they got skills and can spit fire."
G. Black returned to the daily activities of the streets (both legal and otherwise) and lost his young bride – who was all of 21 when she died of meningitis – all in the same stretch. Despite these devastating events, G. Black's brother was again about to change his life. His brother had kept rhyming and encouraged him to do the same, urging him to return to a creative outlet. On his birthday, Hot invited G. Black to the studio. The results were surprising. "They pulled up a track and I ran through it," the artist says. "There was only three of us in there, but the other guy must have run out and told everybody what I was doing. Then, it seemed like there was 30 cats up in the spot by the time I hit the second song."
Word quickly spread to L.A.-based A&R executive Pete 'Volcano' Farmer, who signed G. Black to Virgin Records. But rather than just rhyme about trendy topics, G. Black chose to explore the range of his life experiences. This forced him to really examine his very being – revisiting both the most fulfilling and the most heartbreaking parts of his life in his rhymes – particularly after watching his wife die in UCLA's Harbor Hospital.
"After that, everything I started writing and rhyming was about my life," he remembers. "I had watched all these people die since I had gotten to Cali and you can love all those cats in the streets, but it's nothing like your wife or someone you cherish and who loves you unconditionally. When I lost her, that messed me up for real." The album track "My First, My Last & My Only" is dedicated to her.
After this tragedy, G. Black channeled all of his energy into his lyrics, which are among the sharpest, most thought-provoking rap music has ever experienced. That journey has come full circle on Guerilla City. Through listening to the album, you begin to understand the man that is Guerilla Black.
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