Image via 03 Greedo/ Instagram
Donald Morrison wants to see more brave soldiers on the subway — like the guy blasting Fort Minor on his portable stereo.
When 03 Greedo was sentenced to 20 years in a Texas penitentiary, it felt permanent. Two decades is practically a death sentence in rap years. Any momentum gained in the time before lock up was sure to be lost. Even a workhorse like Greedo, known for his sprawling, 30-plus song tapes, couldn’t record enough music to satiate fans for that long. The length of his prison sentence felt even more unjust considering the crime that landed him there: possession of drugs and guns related to a 2018 traffic stop.
In retrospect, his sentencing now feels like the first in a series of regional tragedies that includes Nipsey Hussle and Drakeo’s ruler, as well as the break-up of Shoreline Mafia, around the time of the murder of one of their members, Mac P Dawg. It was the beginning of the end of a brief but thrilling creative renaissance.
After a dark few years, good news has finally returned. According to reports, Greedo was paroled last week after completing a weeks-long re-entry program. On the heels of the news, the Watts living legend has released an album commemorating his newfound freedom, ironically titled Free 03. It acts as a subtle reintroduction to the world of Greedo, who’s also experiencing a not-so-subtle thrust back into society much earlier than some fans expected. There’s an irrepressible genius in Greedo’s catalog. He has the infamy and the R&B roots of Max B, who once recorded a similarly staggering amount of music before beginning an even longer prison sentence. And like Max B, he wears his heart on his sleeve with conviction. He’s done for LA what Young Thug did for Atlanta a decade ago, leading a complete overhaul of what we think the West Coast sounds like, with brilliantly-executed auto-tune arrangements and a true exploration of his every obsession.
Greedo is adept at the type of world-building meant for a Michael Mann movie. There’s guns and violence, sure, but the nuance comes from his ruminations on love and his fraught relationships with the women who give him pain. There’s times when I’m not sure if Greedo is rapping about drugs or women because his struggles with them feel so intertwined, like he can’t live with both but also can’t live without something to soothe the pain – yet mixing them only causes more problems. It’s this conflict that seems to be playing out in the best Greedo songs.
This is a Greedo-themed Rap-Up celebrating the return of Greedy Giddy.
There’s no better Greedo collaborator than Drakeo The Ruler. Some of the latter’s best songs feature near-show-stealing Greedo verses, including “Ion Rap Beef” and “Out The Slums.” In a heartfelt tribute to Drakeo, Greedo assured us there’s a small treasure trove of collaborations in the vault and we finally heard one of them with “No Free Features,” where Drakeo asks if you want to get “chipped like ceviche.” Greedo, who referred to Drakeo as his evil twin, was always the perfect foil to Drakeo’s mumbled menace, offsetting his nervous nature with a refined chaos and brazen confidence. Greedo’s approach to songwriting often has more in common with Ketchy The Great, who’s voice is distinct and memorable in a similar way. “No Free Features” continues their hot streak together, while setting an important boundary with potential collaborators looking to cash in on a Greedo verse after his release.
The only collaboration between kindred spirits Greedo and PnB Rock ended up a West Coast classic, from the cliched Southern California mansion-themed music video, to the strip-club friendly beat by producer Johnny Cash. It’s a song with numerous Greedo motif’s, including professing his distaste for makeup, a classic case of infidelity and a perfectly timed “just don’t tell nobody!” PnB Rock’s subdued cool and goofy presence (he gets a blowjob in an elevator in the music video) adds a layer of whimsy to the back half of the song that fits well with it’s overtly sexual message.
The feeling of falling in love feels like drugs. The feeling of falling in love with drugs feels like falling in love for the first time every single day but with diminishing returns, always looking for that first high but never getting it, instead coming just close enough to want to continue searching. The slowed version of perhaps Greedo’s biggest hit, “Substance” captures the specific agony of falling in love: the intoxication, the blind trust, the early mornings and late nights. But it’s also just a song about the helplessness of being addicted to pills, too.
Greedo’s ode to Ted Dibiase, a WWF star from the late 1980s who became known for his character “The Million Dollar Man” is as rich and iconic as the gold-studded, dollar-sign-covered suit worn by the originator. “Used to rock that Gucci, it got boriiinnnggg,” Greedo sings, lamenting an anti-Gucci sentiment that would later be mimicked by others in the future. Staying laced in designer is important to Greedo, as are his famed trips to Rodeo Drive. “Dibiase” sounds like how it feels to wake up in 1000 thread-count sheets with your chains still on from the night before.
The beat for “Tricc on just Anybody,” handled by JoogSZN and Beat Boy, is one of the best from this era, with the trademark snare and hard hitting drums melding perfectly with some of Greedo’s best chorus writing of his career. Greedo lets us know that he has standards and won’t waste his time building up just anybody. There’s an art to what he does and he needs to know that you’re committed to the overall mission before he shares his lean with you. “Tricc on just Anybody” showcases Greedo’s affinity for succinct songwriting that burrows into and expands on what’s usually considered familiar subject matter.