When you say "Baltimore" in front of white people, they immediately think of the Wire—which is great to torrent and watch on your computer in eight hour sessions, but would be kind of scary to actually live through. But the truth is, real life in B-more might actually be gully-er than fiction, and MCs A$AP Ant and Young Shaka have lived it. The two hip hop diplomats of that infamous city are using their music to paint a picture that shows both the dark and the beautiful sides of the town known for its high murder rates and killer blue crab cuisine.
A$AP Ant is the only member of the Harlem-based A$AP Mob who's not actually from NYC. He and Young Shaka have been close since middle school, hustling drugs before they moved on to hustling music. We first heard from the duo back in June when they dropped their first single, "Summer Nights," off their yet-to-be released collaborative mixtape. Now they're back again with a music video for the summer anthem, "On Sight." This time around Ant has stepped off the mic and put himself in the director's chair, while Young Shaka has taken center stage as the sole MC on the track.
We got on the phone with Ant and Young Shaka to discuss their forthcoming mixtape, ghetto life in B-more, and what exaclty "on sight" means.
So tell me about “On Sight.”
A$AP Ant: I directed the video. It was done for my friend Shaka to get some buzz, so that people could know his name and get familiar with him. He can tell you more about it than me.
Young Shaka: The video was shot by my man Desean Dash, in Baltimore. We were in the neighborhood that everybody kicks it in. It had the whole Marino Gang in it. The video shows how we do it. We are still out here grinding. It’s grind time. We are still in the hood. But if we keep going, nobody can stop us.
When you say "grinding," do you mean that you are still in the trap?
Yeah, we're still grinding because we’re selling music. That’s grinding. It doesn't have to mean you’re selling drugs when you say you’re "grinding." But really who wants to sell drugs? The only reason people do that is because they have to.
Do you put that sentiment in your music? What are you trying to get across?
We want the people out there to find a new cause. That's why we are writing these songs. OK, we do talk about selling drugs and flipping. But at the same time, we talk about some positive shit.I've got a track that gives you three lessons on how to get this money: trap, work, and go to school.
A$AP Ant: Yeah, this is lifestyle rap. We are giving you what we go through on a day to day basis. Our music is about the stuff we talk about when we go to our friends’ houses or what we think about when we're in the crib taking a shit. We’re bringing our unique perspectives.
I can feel that. So the song is called "On Sight." What does that mean?
Young Shaka: It means exactly what it sounds like. If you're on the internet talking shit, then it's going down "on sight." If you play with my money, then it’s on sight, forreal.
A$AP Ant: We’re really real in these streets and we mean what we say. Everybody else is on the internet talking and that's where the beef starts nowadays. It doesn’t really start from your neighborhood anymore. So we just want to let people know if they are internet talking, then it’s on sight for them.
I can dig that. How'd you guys first link up?
Young Shaka: Ant's been my brother since middle school. He's always been holding me down.
So why aren’t you, like, A$AP Shaka?
I’m with the Marino Gang. That's who I started with. I’m not A$AP. I'm affiliated with the Mob, but Young Shaka is with the Marino Gang and that’s a totally different thing.
What's the Marino Gang?
A$AP Ant: There used to be a clothing brand called Marino Goods that was started with me and Dominic Lord. So the Marino Gang was just our friends. If you copped a t-shirt or you fucked with the clothing brand, you were with Marino Gang off top.
I interviewed Dominic Lord a few weeks back. I know he's no longer affiliated with A$AP. Are you two still cool with him?
Young Shaka: That’s my brother. Dominic’s always going to be my brother, no matter what decisions he makes in the music industry. You feel me? Much love to him because he's doing what he needs to do in the world.
A$AP Ant: Exactly. We’ve been friends since middle school. So at this point, at this age, everybody is doing to do their own thing. But when we all come together, it’s like a fucking Megazord. Nobody can stop us.
What can people expect when you guys finally drop your mixtape together?
We’re influenced by a lot of people, so we use those influences and branch off. It’s not "trap" music. People get the perception that me and Shaka are trappers—I mean we are—but this music is not trap music. It’s our own brand of music. I think it’s like some Lil' Boosie and Webbie shit, or some Mobb Deep shit, but on another level.
Young Shaka: What we are doing is some good, quality music. Not a bunch of nonsense. We put our time and our energy into this. We don't sound like other people. You might see a similarity, but when it comes to the words, it’s not the same because we worded it different.
Is it hard to differentiate yourselves, since you are affiliated with such high profile MCs?
A$AP Ant: We do everything on our own, you know what I mean? Aside from A$AP or Marino Gang, it's me and Shaka. We have the same mindset that MCs had back in the day when they would hustle like 500 tapes on the street right out of their trunk. We’re doing it our own, independent style, without looking for a record label. But don't get me wrong, a record label would be cool. It would be good for the brand. But we want to show that you can do this shit yourself.
So tell me about Baltimore.
A$AP Ant: Yeah, it is grimey as fuck. It’s like every man for themselves. And you gotta watch it, because everyone in Baltimore rolls with cliques. You might only have like a five friend clique because you can't trust everyone. The people here can act like crabs in a bucket. What about the MC's?
It’s like no talent gets showcased out here. People see The Wire, and that's all they know? But there’s actually a lot of talent here—there are designers, rappers, artists.
Word. We just ran an article on VICE.com about the Baltimore scene of young dudes riding motorbikes, four-wheelers, ATVs and stuff like that. You guys familiar with that?
Young Shaka: Yeah, shout out to the Twelve O'Clock Boyz. That shit’s been going on since we were young.
So, ASAP Ant, what’s the biggest difference between Baltimore and Harlem?
A$AP: The aura’s different. New York is fast-talking and a slyness. Baltimore is grimey and people will do whatever it takes to get money. But they have their similarities. It’s just a different mindset. Like, if a thirsty dude from Baltimore saw a fly Harlem dude, that thirsty Baltimore dude would try to pick that Harlem cat off in a second.
Do you think that Baltimore MCs are more aggressive? Do other MCs need to watch out for the brothers coming out of B-more?
A$AP Ant: Yeah, most definitely. Everybody should pay attention to the music coming out of Baltimore because we're all coming together.
Are there any MCs out there that you think are particularly wack? Anybody out there you guys would like to shit on?
Young Shaka: I wouldn't really say another rapper was wack—everybody has their own unique style. But I will say this, though, all that beefing with MCS on record is wack. There are a lot of artists out there—I'm not going to say any names—that have been in the game for a long ass time and they're still on that sucka-ass shit. I don’t really like that. I was raised that if you have a problem, you see me and I see you. We can meet somewhere, you feel me? Rappers in the game should just do one thing, make money and get the fuck out of here.
A$AP Ant: Exactly. It’s on sight for anybody like that out there. We’re just sticking to the facts, you know what I mean?
No doubt. Thanks