Local Love: Guilla
Photo: John M. Wells Jr.
I’m pretty sure that when you see a “Hustler” magazine at a convenience store, you know what’s inside. When I look at the magazine, I feel like it carries the wrong name. To me, a hustler is someone who does whatever it takes to get their craft out into the stratosphere. In today’s music world, it feels like a little luck is needed alongside talent and an intense live show. However, in the Houston hip hop game, you need to have a hustle to get above the big names that came before you. One of Houston’s strongest hustlers, is one of our city’s brightest rappers, Guilla. You can tell a lot about by an artist by how they get their name out, and even more by whom they collaborate with. Last week Guilla dropped his sophomore album, “Rap, Trap, and Drums” with collabs that show how future his sound really is. In actuality, it’s an EP; but when you give it a listen, you almost immediately register to the fact that this guy has flow to his hustle…and that his sound is something you haven’t heard before.
The art to any skill is to make it look easy, and from the first second of the opener, “Pinkman,” Guilla makes this look easy. Using some sort of bizarre vocal chant as a backing track, Guilla almost immediately starts a flow while there’s a mix of three separate beats in time with the occasional rat-a-tat clicking in and out. The bass drops like it’s 1989 and and Adidas are still part of the look of the genre. He does vocals that are stellar in that his style changes frequently, but he keeps the flow steady. It’s like he’s taking pieces from different sounds and slipping them in to make his own vibe. The flow is intense where guilla masterfully mentions non-hip hop items like Linkedin, Old Spice, and Hunger Games before the song comes to an end, and he leaves you wanting more. Using vocals, this time two different backing tracks as the pace setter, “Take That L (Feat. iLL LiAd)” has more happening in the background than most hip hop songs. You don’t have time to notice the three different beats keeping the time that change and intertwine due to Guilla’s flow atop it all. When iLL comes in, his vigor fueled vocals are obvious but not intrusive, as we all know that he’s “got this” when it comes to skills on a mic. In a weird way, there could easily be more than just three beats, though the stride that Guilla employs takes front and center on the jammed out song.
By the third track, which again has more happening than I’m used to in a good way; you comprehend that the differences between what Guilla is doing all over these six songs is definitely something that screams “the future is now.” That third track, the stand out on the EP, “Groupie Love” has the most hook heavy feel. You can’t help but notice that the chorus is meant to be sung live, and is the kind where a room full of concert goers are chanting it back at the stage. Departing in terms of speed but not skill, “Stack That Cheeze (Feat. Roosh Williams)” comes in with the same drum heavy sound. But once Roosh comes in, it’s obvious that this is an album that’s next level in more ways than just how he crafts his songs. Guilla mixes bass and drum sounds with this harmonic vocal rhythm that’s just a little more than the sum of the parts. The fifth song, “Came Down (Feat. Mark Drew & Lil’ Hype)” bring in a hint of the past when Guilla uses some screwed vocals mixed with some kind of club mix sound that’s kept thumping with a multitude of drum tracks. Guilla closes things off with “I Love Him” by cleverly remixing some Bjork vocals that go from the forefront to the background while his drops his rhymes atop it. At one point, the whole song takes this turn where it sounds like you’re drunk at the bottom of a city pool; before Guilla adds distortion to his vocals before Bjork closes the track out. Like most of these songs, you’re getting down so hard that you’re sad when they come to an end.
The whole EP comes in at a little under twenty minutes, but so much ground gets covered in that short time; that it speaks volumes about where Houston’s hip hop scene can go. Paving his own way, Guilla does things astray from what you’d expect from a Houston rapper and almost drives a dagger into the 2023 hip hop sound that everyone wants to emulate about our city’s hip hop past. The hustle that got Guilla on my radar is the same that translates in his live show, and the whole album has that feel of what Houston’s new hip hop class has in store for us. If this album is any indication, then the future of the Houston hip hop scene will be stronger than it’s ever been. You can pick up your own physical copy of “Rap,Trap, and Drums” when Guilla opens for Lil’ Debbie at Walter’s tomorrow night, December 16th. The show is all ages, the doors are at 6:30, and the tickets are between $15.00 and $20.00.