On a sunny day in late June, hundreds of mostly young Baltimore rap fans gathered outside of a West Baltimore funeral home to celebrate the life and career of Lor Scoota, the budding rap star from the neighborhood who had been shot and killed days earlier. Police stood by as DJs from radio station 92Q played Scoota songs on repeat.
Then, at around 5 p.m., another rising star appeared — D.C. rapper Shy Glizzy — trying to draw as little attention to his entrance as possible.
It was no use. As soon as he arrived on the scene, fandom took over.
They screamed his name (“Glizzy!”), and many tried to follow him inside the funeral home until the DJ cut the music and told them to relax. When the rapper — dressed in black and wearing a hat that read YBS, the name of Scoota’s crew — left not long after, most of the kids ran after his black SUV to see where he was headed next.
A star in Washington, Shy Glizzy — who declined to comment for this article through a publicist — has clearly extended his reach to Baltimore, where he returns on Saturday to perform with the Louisiana rapper Lil Boosie at Royal Farms Arena. Now, on the heels of last month’s “Young Jefe 2," Shy Glizzy has emerged as a rising star ready to capitalize on his buzz as it spreads from the Mid-Atlantic.
“They say, ‘Why you never smile?’ cause a lot be on my mind,” Glizzy, 23, raps in his sing-song flow on the new mixtape. “I’m just waitin’ on my time.”
If his time is here, Glizzy — born Marquis King — has made much progress in a short time.
Growing up in Southeast D.C., Glizzy lost his father to gun violence before turning 1, and spent time in and out of juvenile detention, according to The Washington Post. (“I done sold drugs, I done robbed people,” he told the paper last year.) Charges for drug possession, gun possession and theft followed, the Post reported.
Looking to change his life’s course, Glizzy began rapping, and released his first mixtape, “Streets Hottest Youngin',” in 2011. Other free releases followed, but Glizzy’s first hit to make noise outside of Washington was “Awwsome,” an exercise in interesting word choices and braggadocio that would make Gucci Mane proud.
“Jackboys wanna rob me / I’m so awwsome! / Out here like a possum / I’m so, I’m so awwsome!” Glizzy sings with charming defiance.
Glizzy filters his tough talk and street-rap tales through his natural gift of hummable melody. Matched with the right beat, his chest-puffing feels triumphant and threats of violence come off disarming, and nowhere is that clearer than “Awwsome.” Glizzy’s exuberant performance transformed a claim that looks limp on paper into an anthem that even Beyonce was soon covering in concert. A-listers 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky hopped on an “Awwsome” remix.
DJ QuickSilva, morning show host for Washington’s WKYS 93.9, said Glizzy is one of the first D.C. rappers without a major-label deal to gain wide acceptance from Baltimore.
“If you’re hot and big enough in D.C., Baltimore will love you, and Shy Glizzy definitely proved that,” said QuickSilva, an East Baltimore native.
Glizzy maintained his momentum with more mixtapes, like 2014’s “Law 3” and last year’s “For Trappers Only.” He also signed a distribution deal with Kevin Liles’ 300 Entertainment label.
But it was a video for a song not found on any official release that would set the table for “Young Jefe 2,” Glizzy’s most anticipated and accomplished project to date.
A few days before 2016 began, he released his version of O.T. Genasis’ hit single, “Cut It.” Addressing a publicized confrontation at a Memphis club that resulted in Glizzy losing a chain, the rapper essentially wrote a four-minute warning to others looking to “check” his security: Don’t.
“These rappers need to cut it, they ain’t ’bout no beef,” Glizzy raps in the video, standing next to Lor Scoota.
“Cut It” is on its way to 6 million YouTube views, and it’s already one of the best rap songs of the year, even eclipsing the original. Baltimore rapper Tate Kobang tweeted what many already thought: “Glizzy did cut it dirty,” he wrote. “[N]obody else use that beat.”
Then, a few weeks ago, Glizzy made his strongest case yet to become one of rap’s brightest young stars.
“Young Jefe 2,” his 12-track mixtape, finds Glizzy in complete control, leaning on his talent for crafting earworms and committing even harder to his half-sung, half-rapped flow. Bolstered by twinkling production from Zaytoven and Childish Major, Glizzy forgoes guest verses to instead spotlight his refined, but still catchy, approach.
The topics are familiar, but the delivery is more sure-footed, from the nursery-rhyme patterns of “Bankroll” to the menacing crawl of “Huh.” And on “Rounds,” a hazy standout, Glizzy nearly eschews rapping altogether over a beat suited more for an R&B lothario than a street rapper. Still, the streets are never too far from his mind.
“Chickens in my Honda, bet you never met the farmer,” he raps in barely veiled drug vernacular.
For Glizzy to reach his fullest potential, he’ll likely have to avoid the trouble that often fills his songs. (In his most recent incident with the law, Glizzy received six months of probation after pleading guilty in November to disorderly conduct in Montgomery County District Court.)
If he's worried, he isn’t showing it. Like many great rappers, Glizzy uses his past to further tell his stories of struggle and triumph.
“Why you so hardcore? That’s because they like it raw / Jotting down my thoughts, can’t explain that to the law / I was just a little boy who was living really hard / Now that I’m a boss, I don’t worry ’bout s— at all,” Glizzy raps on “New Crack” from “Young Jefe 2.”
There’s no denying Glizzy is having — and seizing — a moment right now. If he continues to put out high-quality music, QuickSilva believes Glizzy will take an even greater leap.
“When a lot of artists get that first taste of stardom, they don’t work as hard anymore and then their music doesn’t reflect the lifestyle anymore, and they fall off on what got them hot,” he said. “As long as he remains consistent, Shy Glizzy will definitely go from star to superstar.”