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OG Dutch Master, 'Blue Light District'( Handout / September 3, 2013 )
DOWNLOAD: OG Dutch Master, 'Blue Light District'
RATING: *** out of 4
At the end of "3Ms," a regal banger produced by D-Prince that comes early on "Blue Light District," 20-year-old rapper OG Dutch Master makes it clear where he views himself on the Baltimore hip-hop totem pole.
"I'm the king of my city, Los never had the crown," he raps over swirling strings before comparing himself to a "shark in the water." Los, the Baltimore-raised MC now signed to Diddy's Bad Boy Records, is considered the city's best rapper in many circles, but OG Dutch Master clearly aims to surpass him. On a much smaller scale, it's similar to Lil Wayne deeming himself the "best rapper alive" in 2005 after Jay Z momentarily retired.
Lil Wayne, a workaholic, ignored the nonbelievers to turn his boast into reality. OG Dutch Master is not the king of Baltimore yet (if anything, the throne has long been vacant), but "Blue Light District," his strongest mixtape to date, shows he's on the right path.
Here, OG Dutch Master, born Toney White II, is at his best looking inward. "Tired of these piggies dressed in blue / I can't trust my surrounding, I can't even trust my crew," he raps on the strong introduction, "Dirty Diamonds." Later, on "In Disguise," he reveals the brutal familial struggles that led to inner conflict: "I stopped selling drugs when my cousin started buying," Dutchy says before acknowledging that the situation hurt his head and his wallet. And yes, he's a hustler often driven by his bottom line ("Money can't buy happiness? That's a lie / I crack a smile when thinking of G5's," he raps on "3Ms.").
He's less effective when he leans too heavily on sex-and-money boilerplate, like when he raps, "Eating crabs and shrimps, I'm so lavish" on "Done It All." "Paper" is an aggressive single that recalls Travis Scott's full-throated brashness, but its impact is dulled with too many mentions of imported belts and Ralph Lauren. On that song, he's mining a style that emphasizes visceral reaction over wordplay, but the result leaves a desire for more balance.
Dutchy is not too far off, though. "Knuckleheadz," the mixtape's most encouraging track, proves the rapper is challenging himself to back up the best-in-the-city claim. The sparse beat, by Virtuoso the God, is alien without obvious pockets for rapping. Through sheer charisma, he transcends mill-of-the-run lyrics to create a song of triumph unlike any I've heard from a Baltimore rapper this year. If he sharpens his pen a bit more, the city could be on notice. -- Wesley Case