By Sowmya Krishnamurthy
Headliners: Drew32 and DJ Skee
Mixtape: Label Me
Real Spit: Drew32 (born Andrew Parks) is on a mission to debunk stereotypes and prove everyone wrong. Of Greek descent from Michigan, the twenty-year-old rapper/producer has been rapping since the age of 14 and first garnered buzz with his music video “Beyond Me” in 2010, followed by a slew of live shows including sets at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW.
Drew’s latest offering, Label Me, is hosted by DJ Skee and despite being Drew’s eighth mixtape, it serves as an introduction to the ostensibly new artist (The title is also perhaps a play on words telling record labels to sign the indie rapper). The opener “You Ain’t Know (Intro)” is a biographical summation, delineating Drew’s history and the challenges he faces as both a white rapper as well as an artist trying to make it beyond state lines. “Just another kid, trying to make it big,” he describes himself and tells his detractors, “I’m more than that/I’m more than songs/I’m more than rap/I’m more than when you saw me and told me I was ‘wack.’”
Regionalism is a major point of contention and Drew grapples with hailing from the Midwest, hip-hop’s oft-forgotten coast. On “Ride On” he laments, “Sometimes I feel like if I was in New York, I would have been blown” and “I love my city but yo home is where the hater is/And we don’t work together, we just hate so no one makes it big.” Luckily, Drew does have some friends from “The Mitten” and enlists adept Michigan rappers (not named Marshall) Jon Connor and Royce Da 5’9” for “I Am King” and “Spazz Out,” respectively. The robotic bragger “I Am King” displays some nice name-checks by Drew of kings ranging from King Tut and Leonidas to Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas. Historical win on all fronts. “Spazz Out” has been in circulation for almost a year now, but it still serves as a jewel on the tape. Over a melodious beat sprinkled with live pianos and helmed by Drew, Royce serves up tasty zingers that just beg to be replayed: “You motherf—in birds know/I don’t got too many words for you/ I keep a pelican brief.”
The majority of tracks on Label Me are produced by Drew and like the mixtape’s moniker, they’re difficult to categorize into just one box. “Long Gone” is gritty and horn-laden, “Ride On” is imbued with Reggae signatures while “Two Bee Stings” (a tongue-and-cheek nod to Kanye West’s “Run This Town” lyric) is synthy and playful. With the dexterity to genre-jump so effortlessly, it wouldn’t be surprising if Drew32 makes some moves behind the board as a producer for other artists down the line. But for right now, he’s still focusing on proving himself as a rapper. “Call me what you wanna/Say what you need to say/But at the end of the day, Imma do me,” he says on the closer.
With confidence like that, who needs labels anyway?
Joints to Check For:
“I Am King” featuring Jon Connor
“Spazz Out” featuring Royce da 5’9”