I hope we’re far enough removed from Desiigner sympathizing to admit that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie was the King of New York in 2016. With his hit single “My Shit” and debut mixtape Artist he introduced a smooth, melodic touch to NYC’s harder edge. He created a new sound for the city.
His labelmate Don Q? Not so much. He was slowly starting to buzz locally, but didn’t have the charm or sweet melodies of the national star A Boogie. Instead, he was a classic, by-the-books lyricist who could probably recite Stack Bundles verses from memory. Fortunately, in New York rap media, there’s always an outlet for such types: Funkmaster Flex’s YouTube.
Five years ago, the Bronx duo appeared together on the Hot 97 DJ’s show to promote their label’s new tape Highbridge the Label: The Takeover Vol. 1–and, of course, rip freestyles over Flex bombs and throwback beats. The more-established A Boogie teed it up, ditching the singing for a pretty standard rags-to-riches 32 over the EPMD-sampling “4PM In Calabasas.”
Then, magic happened. A Boogie passed it off to Don Q, the beat switched to “Oochie Wally,” and, for five minutes, Don Q turned into the greatest rapper of all time. He opened with absolute disgrace–”My vision is clear, I’m the reason why these n***as is here / Tie the rope around your neck, I’m kickin’ the chair”–then dug into the most spellbinding maze of true-school rap this side of Dipset.
Anyone can rhyme words, and with enough practice, make it sound good, but not anyone can be the sniper aiming through your screen from 300 miles away. Look into Don Q’s eyes. Even as he laces every bar with menace, inflecting words and making every punchline feel like a smack to the face, his stare is that of an assassin: unremittingly blank. He’s Raekwon on the Purple Tape. Flash in the flesh. A man on a mission.
In honor of the fifth anniversary of Don Q’s legendary Flex freestyle, here are my five favorite parts:
- “You feelin’ froggy, leap–I ain’t with the fly talk.”
- “Gettin’ paid early, I was workin’ late. / A job?? I couldn’t wait for work, I had work to weigh.”
- Don Q ending his verse for Flex to say some shit then going back in for another 64 bars.
- The way he practically explodes on the word “cricket” in “Everybody can get it, everybody’s a critic / But when you start sayin’ names everybody’s a CRICKET.”
- Pretty much every crazy rhyme scheme that rolls off Don Q’s tongue and makes A Boogie lose his mind but my favorite is:
One of the last spitters left, packed stash in the sweat
We just want to push fast cars and cash bigger checks
Cops pull up? I turn into Flash in the flesh
‘Cause I came a long way from gettin’ harassed in the ‘jects
Worst part: when Don Q throws out a homophobic slur at the end for no reason.
Funniest part: when Don Q raps along to A Boogie’s entire verse.
Please watch this if you haven’t.