Four New York Rappers Before They Were Famous
A young Capital STEEZ
Nothing ever truly disappears from the internet--or so we're told. It's a rule that applies for a bunch of currently-feted New York rappers whose prior songs, images and MC monikers can still be found online in the nooks of outlets like SoundClick and YouTube. Here's a trek through the ages of the early career attempts of Joey Bada$$, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, the Doppelgangaz and the late Capital STEEZ.
4. Capital STEEZ (as JaY STeeZ)
The sadly-deceased Pro Era rapper and founder Capital Steez used to plump for the rap handle of JaY STeeZ (all formatting the artist's own). You can trace the Flatbush kid's development from a chubby child rapping into a webcam to the conspiracy theory-obsessed STEEZ through a trail of YouTube clips. The "Word Play Cipher" (above) was uploaded under the slightly haunting handle of JaYSTeezMuSTDie in 2007 and features him sitting in what's presumably his bedroom and dropping cocksure boasts like, "I'm at a loss for words/ My thoughts reserved for an awesome verse." He also hadn't made his bed that day.
A literal playground cipher video dated 2009 showcases JaY STeeZ sparring with Phony PPL peeps Dyme-A-Duzin and Elbee Thrie as (again quite hauntingly) he confesses how "I'm living in my mind, get me out." Two years later you can catch JaY "kickin' it at the Entree office," while a video for a song titled "Stars" from later that year has him attempting something of a smoother rap style, complete with a dash of crooning on the track. Watching the videos in order and following them up with STEEZ's "Free The Robots" flick is an affecting and disturbing experience. RIP Steez.
3. The Doppelgangaz (as Fab Nickel)
The Doppelgangaz duo of Matter ov Fact and EP have hip-hop history that goes back to a spell in a five-member ensemble named Fab Nickel. A four-track SoundClick page documents songs from 2007: "Live From the 845" is a blast of upstate NY pride, "What It Is" includes a slightly eerie vibraphone loop, "All I Do" runs with a nagging vocal sample, while "Anyone, Anywhere, Anybody" is perhaps closest to the current Dopp Gang formula as they muster up a dusky, static-sodden groove.
The crew's bio is decently self-deprecating, as it first bills them as a combination of Big, 'Pac, Nas, Jigga, Big L and Big Pun before adding ("actually not at all") and detailing how "After years of low quality songs and weak beats, Producer/MC E Pillz... decided to get serious with the production aspect." (E Pillz is now simply EP.) Other factoids include the tracks being recorded with Pro Tools, Reason 3.0 and an Ozone MIDI keyboard, and that Fab Nickel view the internet's affect on the music industry as something that both "hurts and helps it."