The greatest gift an artist can give to their supporters is their true selves. Artists who aren't afraid to share that they've been taken advantage of, even if it rips at their core to revisit the experiences. Artists who don't hesitate to call out people they love for doing them wrong. And artists who are willing to let us in on their joys, even when those emotions conflict with the hard exterior they try to push. All of those are Baltimore rapper and singer Lor Choc's calling cards, and what helps her music speak to listeners in a variety of situations. The 19-year-old's local ascension over the past two years is directly tied to her unwillingness to close herself off, no matter how many bridges she may burn in the process.
Choc released her first single "Run Up On Me" as a 17-year-old in 2016, and it took off in Baltimore due to the song's pulsating synths and rolling drums, joined with her harmonious warnings about what would happen if adversaries underestimated her. But that aggression didn't show up much on her debut tape of the same year, Worth the Wait, which "Run Up On Me" was featured on. The rest of the project showcased Choc's penchant for love songs. "Wind On Me" is dedicated to a girl she misses and wants to dance with. "Forever On My Mind," is about a girl she can't stop thinking about. Songs like this place Choc in the company of artists like Syd and Young M.A., a new crop of lesbian artists unafraid of being open about their love interests.
The R&B-tinged rap Choc makes also distinguishes her from Baltimore's current wave of street music that tends to be crammed with relentless – and sometimes hookless – raps about the city's crime and the need to get away. At times, her music mirrors these themes. "Fast Life," a recent single that we premiered in November, encourages young people to pursue funds whatever way they see fit. But it's her melodic delivery, which often gets compared to Dej Loaf, that sets her apart. In the coming months, Lor Choc will release her sophomore mixtape Love Love. According to her, it's an attempt to show new fans that she's capable of making music that's not just reserved for the hood. On a recent trip to Baltimore, we caught up with Choc at her home studio while she recorded music for the tape. During the conversation, she spoke on the making of Love Love, what it feels like to be constantly misgendered by fans, and the current rap scene in Baltimore. Watch our special with her above and a Q&A with the rapper below.
Noisey: Your sophomore tape, Love Love , will be dropping soon. In what way is it an evolution from your debut, Worth The Wait ?
Lor Choc: Well, what I'm expecting is to catch a new a fan base. You know, some people, they don't listen to street music. So I'm trying to capture at least somebody who never heard of me before who might be like, oh, I'm going to give her a chance, even though the rest of my songs is kind of like street music.So this I wanted to be a different type of vibe.
So when you say you want a fan base outside of street music, do you feel like you can't propel yourself by being too street? Is that what you're afraid of? Pigeonholing yourself
Yeah, I feel like the street music kind of holding me up a little bit as far as reaching a certain amount of people. A lot of people don’t really like to listen to street music. Even though I'm singing and I'm harmonising, It's still for people in the trenches. That’s trenches music. So now I'm trying to get away from like that and just, you know, hit the grown and sexy. Not just stick to this one style of music. I'm trying to be versatile.
From listening to your first tape and following on you Instagram you talk a lot about friendships and romantic relationships. Why do you think that's what you're most passionate about?
If I fuck with you, I fuck with you. If we go shopping and I got it, you got it. If you my nigga, you my nigga for real . So when people cross me and do fucked up shit to me, it make me feel some type of way. I vent on Instagram because I know people can relate. I don't have nobody to talk to besides my girl because I don’t really deal with nobody so I just be writing on Instagram. A lot of those emotions that I’m talking about on Instagram is on the tape. When I go through shit, I put it in my music.
You're from Gilmor Homes which is in Zone 17 in West Baltimore. A lot of people don't realize that's where the majority of black people, at one point, had to live due to redlining. That's where the Royal Theatre was, where Billie Holiday’s monument is, and where a lot of iconic black artists came to play in Baltimore. Do you feel like you carry that heritage with you?
I never really thought about it like that at all. Now that you mention it, when I'm in that area, I walk home. I use that time to recollect what I went through over the past week or last two weeks. And then I just make up lyrics. When I'm making moves to advance this music career, I think about the days when I used to wake up and stare at the brick walls across the street from my grandma's house. That's really all I know.
You’ve spoken before about needing to work twice as hard as a woman in the music industry. Does the fact that people tend to misidentify you as a man make that struggle tougher?
I mean, the fact that anybody want to embrace me and my music just make me feel good. If they don't know that I am a female, that don't even bother me. I don't think nothing of it. Look at me. If you saw me, and you didn't know me, you would think that I was a boy too. As long as they're embracing me and my music, and want to hear my sound, I really don't care.
Does this particular moment in Baltimore feel special to you? This is the first time we've had a wave of rappers getting this much local or national traction. That wasn’t the case just four years ago. What did it feel like to witness that while still in high school?
At first I didn't really pay attention to the music industry in Baltimore when I first started writing. I never had planned on letting my music be heard by the world. It was just something that I secretly did, like in my free time. I was scared to even touch the mic. Then I started building my confidence. Now I feel like more people from different sides of the town get noticed and we can help each other. So I win, you win, they win, we all win. The only thing that set me aside from the Baltimore music thing is the type of music that I make. It's not that Baltimore sound that you hear from an average Baltimore artist. I got my own sound.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey US.