New website Mic Status gives a voice to a young Sacramento ax murderer and other local emcees
I have to admit, it was a little strange walking into a Midtown pizza place and waiting for Yung Rich. Not because I’ve never done an interview with a hardcore rapper, but, in this case, I knew next to nothing about the guy, aside from what I’d seen of him online, which was just a series of brutal rap-battle videos. If I took his raps and persona literally, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he walked into the restaurant, pulled out an ax, slashed my ass and then butchered me to death in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers. That’s the trouble with finding online celebrities who are only famous in a small subsection of cyberspace: You never know what you’ll get in real life.
I found Yung Rich on Mic Status, a new website with a simple concept: Freestyle emcees—rappers who rhyme off the top of their heads—log on, post raps via YouTube videos and then use those verses vs. other emcees. Other Mic Status users will then cast votes to determine the winner.
Flaws? Yes, there are many. The battle arena is something of a popularity contest. And at times it seems that 90 percent of the rappers on the site are inbred yokels from Arkansas who post videos from their parents’ basements. But for a spectator—someone who’s into watching the art of emceeing, as well as someone who is a connoisseur of the fine art of idiocy—it’s very fun to watch.
Mic Status is the brainchild of Troy Gonzalez, Rob Reyes and Eric Medlin, who functions as the site’s programmer. They launched the site about five months ago as a way to create a place for emcees to participate in online freestyle battles.
“We’re one of the first sites that can do that,” Gonzalez says.
Since it launched, Mic Status has garnered more than 1 million views and has attracted users as far away as Sweden and the Philippines.
One of Mic Status’ major strengths is that Gonzalez and Reyes are both involved in the music industry as engineers and mixers, and they’ve collectively worked with the likes of Destiny’s Child, Barbara Streisand, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre and Eminem. So the industry, they say, is watching.
That kind of exposure is exciting for someone like Yung Rich—the 18-year-old Caucasian-Mexican hybrid from south Sacramento with sketchy tattoos; his neck reads “Dewey Active” and he sports two inked “59” tattoos near each eyelid. His raps are laden with gang terminology and he rhymes mostly about using an ax to kill people, which is pretty much why he goes by Yung Rich “Axe Murderer.” Despite all that, his raw talent transcends gang affiliation, even when he’s rapping about being in a gang.
Take Yung Rich’s battle against Sacramento’s Mahtie Bush, for example. Bush, in many respects, is a well-accomplished lyricist. But Yung Rich doesn’t give a shit. He simply goes for the jugular in a rap that takes the competition to a metaphysical level of storytelling.
Here’s a snippet:
“In fifth grade, Mahtie Bush, he was nothing nice / He used to walk around eating a bowl of rice with a head full of lice / I ran up on him one day when I had a knife / stabbed his ass twice right up in his back / he said ‘Yung Rich … why the fuck you do that?’”
When I ask Mahtie Bush about the battle, which technically ended in a draw, he gives Yung Rich the utmost respect.
“Yung Rich is a dope freestyle emcee,” Bush says.
So, when Yung Rich walks into the pizza spot, I’m not exactly sure what to expect. He looks just as he appears in his videos: scrappy with an evil grin, face tattoos and all. By his side is his producer Élanmowerman, or Élan, arguably one of the best freestyle rappers in Sacramento. He recently won a Mic Status freestyle contest and walked away with a pair of signed Dr. Dre headphones.
As we sit down to talk, it’s evident that Rich is much more relaxed compared to his hyped-up battle-rap videos. Yet he seems like one of those kids you knew in high school who you thought might end up in the newspaper one day for doing some crazy shit, maybe involving a sharp object and a jittery liquor store clerk. When I ask him about his tattoos, he becomes quiet and tells me that he doesn’t really talk about them.
“I mean, fuck,” he says, with a little bit of hesitation. “Everybody knows I’m a Norteño.”
Like a concerned uncle, Élan takes hold of the narrative and steers the topic of conversation in a more positive direction, just as any good emcee, and friend, would do.
“He’s trying to do better and he’s doing very well, too,” Élan says. “Rich has something that most people don’t have.”
A brain. It’s true, Rich can freestyle stories, complete with beginnings, middles and ends, which is something that Sacramento emcee Mic Jordan, who posts on Mic Status very infrequently, noticed about the young emcee.
“I’m actually working on a track with him and Élan right now,” he says. “Élan is a super beast; definitely one of the best freestylers in the region.”
Élan’s unwritten freestyle raps are so clean that they sound like they were written over the course of a few days—raw, but tidy and linear. It’s baffling that he and Rich haven’t been blowing up in Sacramento’s small, but loud hip-hop scene.
“If it’s about groupies and throwing shows and drinking and fucking everybody in the small hip-hop community, I don’t want a part of it,” Élan says. “Now if it’s about us spreading the music around and everybody working together and helping each other get out of poverty, then I’m about it.”
Élan makes it clear that he simply wants to make his music while trying to help Rich release Sicktape Vol. 1, a gritty collection of gang-centric horrorcore songs that range from bloody ax-related murderfests to a heartfelt tribute to his father. Think ’90s Sacramento gangster rap with more creative ways to butcher a human.
I can attest that if this album turns out right, Yung Rich will turn from unassuming Mic Status champion to a rap star, who holds Sacramento hostage by the blade of his ax.