By 2017’s standards, the bigger the hyperbole — the bigger the artist can potentially be. But Bay Area rappers don’t have to play those games. Although they’re historically omitted from trendsetting conversations within rap’s playmakers, a solid artist can easily make a living (and a name for themselves) by servicing the fans of their own backyard.
Oakland vet Philthy Rich is living proof of such a narrative and his latest album, Sem God, properly accentuates the skills a decade-plus career has earned him, although it doesn’t make many strides to attract a wider audience.
Unlike the countless OGs able to survive off of reputation for surviving the drought alone, Philthy Rich can flat-out rap, evidenced by several of the album’s varying styles of applying the lyrical pressure. That said, being such a respected street fixture (like corner stores) puts a cap on Philthy’s creativity. His credentials are solidified (the East Oakland Seminary neighborhood to which he owes his deity status tragically walks it like they talk it) and he’s recorded with a diverse batch of Hip Hoppers from Fabolous to E-40 to Waka Flocka to Freeway, all while ensuring the legacy of Bay Area angel Mac Dre through all things Thizz.
When he’s grooving, songs like “My Zone,” which lightly borrows from Case’s unforgettable “Touch Me, Tease Me,” will surely keep miniskirts occupying the dancefloor and longtime collaborator Traxamillion puts his BS&T into the 14kt slapper “Right Now,” which kicks off with a flawless Philthy verse that treads the line between commercial and credible without question.
“Free JBay” is a thumptastic audio kite to his incarcerated homie, packed with nimble rhymes reminiscent of the days of OJ da Juiceman, while the mumbly catchiness of “Dead Fresh” is boosted by Philthy’s well-timed cadence and Money Man’s best Future impersonation.
Still, there are a handful of moments where Philthy excels at being local when he should be thinking global. By the time the Rising Trap Stars Challenge heard on “Big Dawg Status” (consisting of YFN Lucci, Young Dolph and Lil Durk) rolls around midway through the project, Sem God’s range has been maxed. He also squanders his facetime with the red-hot Gucci Mane and Zaytoven on “Around,” which microwaves one of La Flare’s most recognizable hits in “Pillz,” instead of cooking up a new classic. And the frantic “No Extra” showcases a 100-round drum flow no doubt, but still ranks as yet another tale from the hood that we’ve all heard before.
The production value for the entire LP is decidedly Bay, with bullying 808s and commanding keys digging deep into the tracks’ identity, which will satisfy existing customers but likely won’t reach likeminded Midwest and Dirty South fans who would appreciate the hood fabulousness of the album.
Philthy Rich need not concern himself with falling into familiar habits like racking up three volumes of Sem God in the next 365 or entertaining the thought of retirement like he touched on in a recent Thizzler interview. The Bay’s underserved rap populous needs proper leadership and by buckling down and creating the right records as opposed to the right records for right now, Philthy Rich has the capabilities to lead that charge.