Since his "Bank Rolls (Remix)" established him as a rapper to watch last year, East Baltimore's Tate Kobang had yet to release a new project to capitalize on the national buzz.
That changed Friday, when Kobang released "Since We're Here," a 10-song mixtape recorded over the last five months that confidently proves the 23-year-old has layers to his craft.
For the MC-minded, there are bars rapidly tumbling out of Kobang's nimble flow. But there are also stylistic curveballs that work more often than not, like the "Yeezus"-channeling slow grinder "Nasty Girls" featuring Baltimore club legend Blaqstarr and "Love Again," the Chuck Inglish-produced dance track showing off Kobang's falsetto. He even dusts off a whisper-flow from circa 2005 for "Number 5."
Calling from a truck earlier this week in his second home, York, Pa., Kobang said the main point of "Since We're Here" was to show his range.
"I feel like people are trying to put me in a box to be the next [expletive] 'Cha-Cha Slide' guy," Kobang said. "There isn't one set thing I can do. I can do everything — drop a country record and just [mess] people's heads up."
Thursday night at Baltimore Soundstage, Kobang will perform in his hometown for the first time since "Bank Rolls (Remix)" landed him a deal with the record label 300. (He was scheduled to perform Jan. 22 at Soundstage with 300's "Young Hustle Tour" but it was canceled because of a snowstorm.)
Ahead of the show, Kobang discussed the mixtape's purpose, Swizz Beatz executive producing his debut album and more. This interview has been edited and condensed.
What was your motivation to release "Since We're Here"? Was this to hold fans over?
It was just a warning shot. … [I wanted to] let [people] know I can drop vocals or I can actually rap or I can make the club record or I can do the pop record. So when I do these things [later], it isn't like, "This isn't Tate Kobang."
The most striking thing about the tape is the range you're showing. How important was it for you to show these different sides?
It's just what I've been wanting to do. I tell people all of the time, I don't even listen to rap music. So for me to put together rap music, I wouldn't say it's difficult, but that's what I put time into. But like, "Love Again," that was effortless. Chuck Inglish sent the beat, and as soon as I heard the beat, I was like, "I already know exactly…"
I don't write. Everything was just in the feeling and emotion and how I was feeling at the time. That's what I do. Whatever the beat calls for, that's what I want to do. That's what I like about being an artist, not a rapper, because whatever's called for is what I'm going to do.
How much material are you holding onto?
My thing is I don't like to put out [music] that I've already got. I wouldn't go back and put a song from two years ago on the album I'm putting out at the end of the year, because it has nothing to do with what's going on. Everything that I put out is telling my life and my story at the moment. That's why "Going Back" was the second record on ["Since We're Here"]. I ain't going back to what I was doing. That was to let people know that everything is fresh.
"Going Back" is stupid, by the way.
Man, that is my [expletive]! It's crazy because the records that I wasn't expecting people to [like] they [like the most]. People don't know what they like until you give it to them. Kids don't come out the womb saying, "Oh, I want some baby food." You got to give it to them to figure out if they like it or not.
Baltimore is well represented on the tape, from Test and YGG Tay to Blaqstarr, Jay Oliver and Street Scott. What motivated you to include so many from Baltimore?
It's not every day that we get somebody to come out of the city. We had a couple people. I don't know what the story was. I can't speak for anybody, and I'm not in anybody's business. But from my understanding, nobody tried to reach back and help anybody else out the city. I want us to get out! You know what I mean? I'm tired of losing [expletive] in the city.
Life is too short. I just want people to see there's life outside the trenches. I listen to everybody from the city. I like to hear everybody's story. I want to be the one that brings that platform to the city. I want us to have a Chief Keef year. Chief Keef came out, and then 50 other Chicago [rappers] got signed. That's what I want.
I noticed some friction on social media about the rollout of the tape between you and 300. You were talking about quitting rap. What was that about?
It was just a communication thing. At the end of the day, it was what it was. We just gotta work on communication. That's family; family going to argue. But we all good. We all just trying to win.
So I assume they got on board with the tape's release before it came out.
Yeah. I dropped it on my own, and that's something I like to do anyway. I want to drop on my own and then have them get behind it so I can see where I'm at by myself. That's why I like "Going Back." I dropped "Going Back" myself. They didn't want me to drop "Going Back." They said the video wasn't where they thought it should be, yadda, yadda. The video is exactly what I wanted it to be.
What's in the works? Are you going to let this tape marinate a bit?
We're about to work on this album. Swizz Beatz is executive producing the album. We're looking to drop around September. Looking to do my own tour. I know I got a couple of tours coming up that we're working on getting on and everything. We're going to shoot everything for this mixtape. I'm going to be everywhere, man. People are going to get tired of seeing me.
I'm also doing a shoe drive. I do a shoe drive every year on my mother's birthday. That's April 19 in Baltimore, which is also the [anniversary] of the Freddie Gray [death], so we're going to do it right on North Avenue. We're going to bring live music, cook out. We're just going to have fun in the city.
What about some collaborations you have cooking?
We already got some crazy remixes in the works for the "Since We're Here" mixtape. Working on some [stuff] with Nelly. Working on some with [Jadakiss] and [Fabolous].
You and Swizz Beatz must have really connected when you all met for him to become executive producer.
Man, listen. Swizz was like, "Man, I'ma let you know, I get a million artists come across me every day, and there ain't nothing special about them. There's something about you. You it! You got 'it!' It is what it is." I was like, "Man, whatever 'it' is, I'm glad I got it, because this is crazy." We gonna link up and we gonna make magic.