When it comes to a group like Horseshoe Gang, I’m all ears. I’m ready to hear a fresh approach to rap, especially after the onslaught of “trap rap” we’ve been hit with from the States over the last few years, and if that means throwing it back to the old school then so be it.
I doubt Horseshoe Gang have done an interview in the last ten months without having been asked about their battle with Funk Volume (FV), but even by their own admission, it’s by far the most distinguished wave they’ve made in the rap game so far. Arguably one of the first times Horseshoe Gang (HSG) have stepped out of the shadow cast by their older brother KXNG Crookd or Crooked I, they now release their new album after taking up FV’s $500,000 challenge.
Recently I got the chance to speak to Demetrius, Julius and Kenny about their approach to rap on the new album as well as their journey to where they are now. Starting out as “Little Underground G’s” or known to their mother as the “Thunder Tongues”, the four MC’s slowly completed their transition through the Untouchable Gang and onto the Horseshoe Gang that we hear today under the guidance of KXNG Crooked, the man who branded them the Untouchable Gang himself. Demetrius explained further :
“It was actually KXNG Crooked that came up with the Untouchable Gang. Creating our own fan base and stepping out of our older brother’s shadow has been a big achievement, you know what I’m saying, like he definitely paved the way for us and opened doors and everything. But it was good to establish our own fan base within COB, so people know there’s KXNG Crooked and then there’s the COB umbrella, but there’s also Horseshoe Gang over here.”
In many ways, what FV did by opening out a challenge, was give groups such as Horseshoe Gang a shot at mainstream recognition, particularly for artists who may struggle to gain attention behind the cloud of trap rap that is currently dominating the mainstream. The gang seem to believe they carry a curse, shared with their brother and other skilled lyricists that prevents them from getting featured with bigger artists, forcing them into their old school approach of battling. Julius was keen to outline what he believed to be the reasons behind this :
“There is a curse that comes with being a skilled lyricist in general, like Crook has the curse as well, which is, if you have a certain level of talent as a rapper, it kind of alienates you a little bit. Other rappers are hesitant to do songs with you, you know what I mean, because it instantly turns into a competitive thing. Rappers that don’t have a high level of skill can network and do songs with any other rapper because it’s not always so competitive, but when it comes to rappers who are deemed as real lyricists, a lot of the time it’s hard to do songs with your peers, because some cats don’t want to be out rapped.”
Battling is by no means dead, the UK learned that first hand with the grime scene exploding last summer after the Chip beef saga so maybe Horseshoe Gang’s approach isn’t so fresh, but they could definitely be onto something. The world also witnessed Meek Mill and Drake’s battle, certainly one more famous than the FV vs. HSG episode, but in their opinion not as technically impressive, a point Demetrius also applied to rap music as a whole right now.
“I think the old school approach is definitely dead, or dying out in hip hop, certainly as far as battling is concerned, or rapping in general so we tried to merge the new school with the old school, tried to bridge the gap. So when you hear a battle like Drake versus Meek Mill, it’s more about your statements, what you’re saying is going to win you the battle. But the old school approach is not just what you’re saying but also how you’re saying it, you know what I mean, how you ride the beat and being aggressive too, that’s a real battle.
We definitely feel like today’s fans don’t know and can’t appreciate the original type of hip-hop because they don’t know nothing about it. So, since we know all about the new school hip-hop and the old school, we’re going to teach these younger fans about what hip-hop is supposed to sound like. But we’re going to package the essence of hip-hop in a new version of it.
When I asked them about what they wanted to achieve with their new album, they spoke about “pushing the culture forward and not keeping it stagnant, like most of the rappers today are doing”. In my opinion, the trap culture has at times promoted recycled styles and quite dull and dry deliveries, so I appreciate what HSG are trying to do.
Some of the more impressive hip-hop MC’s such as Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper have been merging genres, crossing into Gospel and Jazz to progress hip-hop, but I’d love to see an outfit like HSG bring a touch of the old school to rap, as long as it keeps things moving forward. Perhaps some will say the old school is the old school for a reason, but appreciate what these guys are doing. Having seen a similar approach work for artists such as Joey Bada$$ and Run The Jewels, don’t bet against them being the next force in the scene. They’re only just getting warmed up.
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Words by Thomas Schofield