By day, not-so-mild-mannered Delonte West is a NBA basketball player, a combo guard too small for shooting guard and too selfish to play point. West is notable for tattoos, somehow having red hair despite an African-American and Native American ethnic mix, thugging in a motorized tricycle with two handguns and (inexplicably) a shotgun, and reportedly copulating with Gloria James, celebrity mom to an apocryphal king. An antihero of sorts, pariah in a league that forces its players to wear suits and follow rules. But there’s a side of Delonte that exists away from the spotlight, where a burgeoning rap career transforms Mr. West into Charlee Redz, car aficionado and purveyor of optimal rhymes.
This week, 4 singles off upcoming mixtape Cadillac Music: Come Ride Wit (sic) Me were leaked to Slam; while one might think that hackers saw West’s compositions as grail, the leak occurred from within the Charlee Redz camp; more specifically, Redz himself was responsible for the breach. The unabashedly explicit “My Dually” begins by expressing Transcendentalist distaste for confinement in the studio and the label’s aim for an audience elevated 12 feet above traffic.
As a wordsmith, Redz drops a clever double entendre into the title. A “Dually” is a truck with four wheels on the back, typically tricked out in a display of gangster braggadocio. But lesser used is the Urban Dictionary definition, where a Dually refers to a woman shaped like the truck, possessing wide hips and a protruding posterior. Essentially, a pear-shaped figure. The refrain makes more sense when viewed in this context, with Charlee Redz heralding his affinity for “loud,” in arenas of both audio and cannabis, as well as custom rims and stacks of cash pledged to his dually. Life’s finer things.
Charlee Redz gets introspective with the creatively titled “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy.” He opens his verse insisting that his eyes are low, bringing his streak of opening songs with shoutouts to a plant banned both by the NBA’s conduct policy and Federal law to a perfect 2 for 2. But the line I find interesting is “This life fast, sometimes it comes slow/ so I wear a mask, so nobody know.” His intense and challenging rhymes try to conceal an important revelation, but it’s extractable if you pay close attention. By adopting the Charlee Redz persona, Delonte West is putting on his mask, “so nobody know.” With this, he’s able to segregate the pristine image of Delonte West, innocent child balling on a wire hanger hoop until his momma whooped him, from the swagged-out artist living life for the pleasures of the finer things in green.
The third track leaked is the thankfully brief “Texas I Like It.” Redz’ voice is distorted, taking it from a terrible track with monosyllabic rhymes and intellectually devoid lyrics to a deeper-voiced terrible track with monosyllabic rhymes and intellectually devoid lyrics. This song is literally everything abhorrent about rap. Concepts presented in chronological order: getting paid, hearing 50 gunshots last night, hardness in the hood, trying to get laid, haircuts, hats, enjoying stardom in Texas, using credit cards instead of cash to impress the “hoes on the poles.” This is the most gruesome Texan atrocity since the Alamo, or the death penalty, or Vanilla Ice.
As the saying goes, “Blood runs thicker than water and faster than Shaq.” Charlee Redz showcases his familial piety by including his uncle Rudy preaching the gangster gospel of being a man and wooing women. Highlights of Rudy’s message, combined with a soft backing track, include relationship dissolution, the struggle with body ideals, humanizing Tyra Banks, and mythological odes to Helen and the Trojan War. Rudy’s role is evocative of the teacher on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a sage who helps break down life for the audience (a classroom of children, as opposed to Uncle Rudy’s gangsters riding 12 feet high.)
Parallels can be drawn between West and Ron Artest, a baller on and off the court with his own rap label (more here.) The gig should feel stale, but I can’t help but be excited about everything Delonte West does. He falls somewhere between brilliance and outrageousness, and the spectrum is almost impossible to calibrate. His Twitter is routinely hilarious, consistently talking about everyday things like fixing driveways and binging on chili. Watching Delonte’s career is like watching the NFL with replacement refs, or Univision on mute. And that might be just the way he likes it.