Shy Glizzy’s introduction to most of the world came when he sent shots in Chief Keef’s direction back on 2012’s “3 Milli.” It was a calculated gamble, over the beat for Keef’s “3Hunna,” and not an uncommon gesture; typically, when an artist rises to the gargantuan level of acclaim that Keef did in so little time, those trying to achieve similar success attempt to deface them. Some would call that clout-chasing in 2018, but, as it occasionally does, the jab ended up working in favor of a then 18-year-old Shy. The D.C. native absorbed the attention he got from that, and in the process, became one of the most nationally respected artists to come out of The District — especially at a time when the city wasn’t being scanned for its rap talent outside of the more mainstream-leaning Wale and Tabi Bonney towards the top of this decade.
Since his debut tape No Brainer was released in 2011, Shy Glizzy has had 11 solo projects drop and soundtrack what life is like in one of rap’s most underrepresented national regions. Last December — a dead zone for releases during End of Year List SZN — he shared one of his most well-rounded projects to date with Quiet Storm. The 18-track effort was sparse on features and left the necessary space for Shy to display how he’d gained more control of his shrill-like harmonizing (“Shank”), diversified his toolbox of flows (“More Clips”), and continued to add onto his deep collection of contagious self-boosting raps (“Get Jiggy”). Even with all that in play, the project went virtually unnoticed by major publications. Shy Glizzy hasn’t turned a blind eye to those hard truths, either, and on his new EP Fully Loaded, he plants more evidence as to why his artistry is deserving of more consideration.
The first words spoken on Fully Loaded’s autobiographical intro, “Gimme A Hit,” are Shy plainly stating, “Hey, y’all know I been doin’ this shit for a minute right? I feel like they sleepin’ on me. Let’s wake ‘em up, though.” Those kinds of sentiments are echoed as far back as you can go in rap; the fight for initial respect, or the quest to win it back after some missteps, is arguably the driving force behind some of the genre’s most decorated albums. But what makes it interesting in this case is that Shy Glizzy has been fighting a consistent battle to garner that respect outside of the DMV from the very start, with very few missteps to justify the lack of it.
Fully Loaded lives up to its name in all-star level featured guests as well, a sign of acknowledgement from his peers across the industry. The horror movie-like key hits on “Get Money” inspire completely different yet formidable approaches from he and Rick Ross. “Super Freak,” with its looping chandelier-sounding chimes, are a perfect foundation for the nasal-rap utopia that he creates with Lil Uzi Vert. He’s silky smooth on the hook for “Money Set,” which gives way to a floating Young Thug verse. Some newcomers like Toronto’s Pressa; Largo, MD rapper Q Da Fool; and Smokepurpp make solid appearances on the project too. At every opportunity to co-exist with A-list rap names — and hungry youngsters — on Fully Loaded, Shy Glizzy holds his own, not only in content, but in a way that maintains the styles that make him stand out. Maybe an artist buckling down and sticking to their strengths for the better part of a decade is something to give more value to than experiencing superstardom for an, albeit momentous, almost-inevitably abbreviated amount of time.
Though few, there are some cases that may explain why Shy Glizzy is still often relegated to being the King of D.C. when his skill-set and track record suggest much more. The follow-up to his mainstream arrival that was 2014’s “Awwsome” was a remix with A$AP Rocky and 2Chainz that left much to be desired. By the time Beyonce covered the original track at the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, it felt like a great moment to flex with more than something to be built off of, but Shy never quite got a solo opportunity like it again. The closest he got was “Funeral,” which came out in late 2014 on his Law 3 mixtape and is considered by many to be one of his best songs, but its Jeezy-featuring remix didn’t make much noise. The most damaging — and forgettable — move of Shy’s career was the brief pivot to his A.K.A., Jefe, in early 2017. The lone project under that name, The World Is Yours, was easily his most uninspired and a red flag that he might have been losing a step while fresh DMV faces like Q Da Fool, Rico Nasty, and WillThaRapper were trailing behind. But even that felt corrected by the end of 2017 when Shy’s powerful verse on GoldLink’s “Crew” helped earn the song a Grammy nomination.
At the very least, Shy Glizzy’s journey from Southeast D.C. will be one of the more interesting stories to dissect when people look back on the impact of regional rap scenes somewhere down the line. If he’d taken off further when “Awwsome” was hot, maybe his growth would have been reduced to just being a high-octane, squawking rapper with a penchant for anthems. Over the years, Shy Glizzy has found himself in some unsuspecting places for a street artist, maintained respect from his peers, gotten undeniably better, and, in the process, helped bring more attention to a region still jostling for the respect in the grand scheme of rap glory. Mainstream success aside, each feat is worth celebrating.