Washington, D.C.'s Yung Gleesh spits a deranged strain of post-Based street rap and has been moving mixtapes since 2012's Cleanside's Finest, now on its third installment. Today he premiered "My Dog," a dead-tongued, blundering song about his guns. Sometimes he's barely listenable, and sometimes Gleesh hits a stride that flows like whitewater rapids: the first verse of "Since When" is without flaw, and when he promises to Point my finger in all your babies faces, 'cause I know all these little shitbags gon' be crazy on "Purpin," it makes more sense than you think it does. We spoke to Gleesh while he was chilling in L.A. at Fredo Santana's apartment. You can catch him on tour this winter; he'll be back in L.A. for HAM on March 7.
How would you describe your music? Shitbag music, man. That's my lane, my shit—my name for my style. Everybody got their own style: Lil B got that Based shit, Gucci got trap shit, Fredo, all them did drill music. Shitbag music, that's for me.
Why do you refer to yourself as a shitbag? That's not a nice thing that a lot of people want to be. A lot of people who know me—we ain't talkin' about the people that grew up with me, I'm talkin' about a lot of people who start knowin' me from the industry—they think it's funny, cool, and gang, boo bop bang, laughin'. They don't realize that it really mean what it really mean, know what I mean? Until people see what it is, that's when they'll be like, "Oh, nah, I thought it would be all fun and games, I don't like this." You can actually get a good vision [of my style] when you hear that word. You see the image in your head like, "Oh that ain't nothin' I want right there." Now we rob niggas 'cause it pays you better, $10 bet I get your North Face wet up. [Fredo Santana continues rapping the lyrics to "Skrong" in the background] That's Fredo, he wildin' out right there. I'm at his house out in Cali right now. We're by the beach, Marina del Rey and shit, coolin' by the coast.
How much does D.C. culture inspire you? Every culture is inspired by its own environment. Down in Baton Rouge, they got they own little thing like voodoo—I'm fuckin' with you, but know what I mean? Down in Louisiana they eat alligators and shit, they live off the land down there. You a product of your environment. I'm from D.C., so what you hear is D.C. flavor.
"I ain't gotta keep screaming 'loud,' I got 'boof.' This shit is stank. I'm speaking D.C. terms."
You used to play in a go-go band. Do you ever work on the production side as well? Nah, I ain't got the time for that shit—and I ain't saying that on some Hollywood-geekin'-ass "I'm too good for that" shit. When I be ready to record, I don't like to hear the beat, I just be going in there and freestyling. I've been doing that since 2012—[Gleesh and Peewee Longway's] "Long Way" was one of the first songs that I ever freestyled. "Gleechie" was freestyle, "Water" was freestyle, "Wasabi"—all that shit. If I'm sitting here making the beat and hearing that shit for three hours, it gets annoying. I always hated that process—and then the producer always wants to do a little extra shit. "I'm going to put the treble on it, I'm going to put the high hat on it." Fuck no, let's go—I want to record on this right here, I don't want you to do anything to it. By the end of the process, I don't want to be on the beat.
A lot of rappers these days say that they just go in the booth and freestyle three verses. What is it about that approach that you like better? Rap started with people in the basement just kicking flows, right? They were just smoking, sitting around, getting high, and just rapping. That was some raw ass shit, and they was like, "Damn, I can actually do something with this." A nigga never really wrote in the first place—no rappers—and then niggas starting writing. I bet every rapper probably get up to like 8 bars when they first hear the beat—even if the words don't come out they mouth, they just mumble some shit. By the 4th bar you forgot what you were saying, and then you forgot the flow [Fredo shouts in agreement], and then by the time you finish the verse, your voice don't even match the way you heard it in your head.
"If niggas in my city was talking about bricks and shit, they were trying to be like other niggas. They was lying man."
You rap a lot about boofing in your songs. I've known a certain definition of that term—like, if you have something you don't want anybody to find, you put it in a place where it can't be found easily. I really thought I was being original with that shit—but for real, that's some shit our city says when somebody stink. Like, a nigga ain't take a shower. We rappers probably 15 deep in the house, run down, where they ain't no showers—basically be going through the whole winter wearing the same pants. Some niggas' hygiene is worse than other niggas. We actually nicknamed a couple niggas "Boof." Around the time [Gucci Mane] came out with that loudpack shit, I was like, I ain't gotta keep screaming "loud"—I got "boof." This shit is stank. I'm speaking D.C. terms. Frank Lucas named his shit Blue Magic, and now everybody in the streets screaming, "Where that boof at?"
So if they cop some boof, they know it comes from Gleesh. Nah, I wouldn't go that far [Laughs]. They don't know where it came from. But I found out that in New York, "boofing" means putting the drugs up your ass and then going to jail. Out in Cali, "boof" mean some doodoo-ass weed—dookie-ass weed. I didn't know that though. Fredo telling me in Chicago boof means shitty weed, too. I didn't know that—I thought I was being original. "Goop" is PCP. Niggas ain't really selling bricks and coke and shit—it ain't really no kingpin niggas down in our shit, moving five pounds every day on the table. Niggas would get taken off real quick—if the streets don't take them off, the feds will get 'em. So the thing that's selling is that goop now. Coke still go, but goop, that PCP, embalmment fluid shit, that's that water. [Fredo: That sherm.] Yeah, the dipper, dip in the boat—they call it love boat. We didn't have bricks, but we had goop on deck. That's what our main drug was we was selling. If niggas in my city was talking about bricks and shit, they were trying to be like other niggas. They was lying man.
Well you're moving clean water now. Yeah, it's clean water—we ain't selling goop no more. We selling good, clean hydrating water—nice, clean Gleesh merchandise. The Gleesh water collection. We already dropped the white one a few months ago, with the rain coat, the water bottle, a t-shirt, and a bucket hat. And then we just dropped the black joint in November, with the hoodie, the long sleeve shirt, the book bag, and the bottle with the measurements for the lean heads. We might drop this red joint, I don't know.
What's coming up next music wise? You're out in L.A. with Fredo now right, are you guys recording? He working on some shit with Sosa—Blood Thicker Than Water—and then he working on his own shit—Ain't No Money Like Trap Money. I'm working on my own mixtape, I just did like four joints yesterday.