A product of Pontiac, Michigan, One Be Lo (a.k.a. Nahshid Sulaiman) grew up amongst the despair and urban decay of a region devastated by the rapidly disappearing auto industry. Rapping and producing since his high-school days under the name One Man Army, he first made waves as one half of Binary Star before breaking out as a solo artist, founding the Subterraneous label/collective and changing his name to One Be Lo in the mid-'00s. Sulaiman converted to Islam as a young man, which inspired trips to the Middle East and his eventual move to Egypt in 2007; he now splits time between metro Detroit and Cairo. Currently putting the finishing touches on his new album, Baby, which should see the light of day this spring, One Be Lo took the time to let us know about a few joints he's been feeling.
The Oh S#!t Project
From metro Detroit comes another artist who is blowing up. He began as DJ Phrikshun on the 1s and 2s, dabbles with production, and has been recently reincarnated as Ro Spit. Lines like "Always been a leader/And I click with cool kids" prove that Ro Spit's not all swag—he can actually rap. Just listen to his Detroit version of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" for further proof.
Jake One got bangers for days, but Freeway got just as many bars, and these two mesh as well as Guru and Premier. "Know What I Mean" is no exception; a song about dos and don'ts in the streets. You could look at it as Freeway droppin' knowledge for the young cats on the block, street poetry at its best, or both.
I stumbled across Fashawn in LA, while performing on the same bill. Shortly after, I copped Boy Meets World, which stayed in rotation for about a week straight. Exile delivers on the production side, and Fashawn lets us know right from the intro that he ain't riding coattails. Too many quotables, just listen for yourself.
A few years ago I went to check out this new studio in Detroit. The producers there played samples of a guy named Jay Electronica. A few years later, it was no surprise when I heard everybody talking about "Exhibit A," produced by Just Blaze. Lines like "They built my city on top of a grave/Niggas die, niggas get high/And watch the parade" are lyricism in its purest form.?