During the summer, Landover, Maryland rapper Black Fortune caught fire in his home area when he dropped “DMV Anthem,” a self-explanatory shoutout to different parts of the D.C. metropolitan area and its cultural staples (mumbo sauce, Stadium nightclub, and the region’s “beat your feet” dance). Songs that are dedicated to particular cities or neighborhoods tend to do well for the simple fact that they reinforce pride in its residents, but another draw of “DMV Anthem” was Black Fortune’s high, transferable energy. In the video, he initiates a party in every location he hits, from carryouts to clubs, in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s turning himself up just for the camera. And he wasn’t at all.
When I got the chance to see Black Fortune perform at standout DMV festival Trillectro in September, he put so much into his set that the stage area’s floor began to shake. The song that got the most out of Fortune, and the crowd, was his March single “Osshwop,” which features drums that knock so hard, it’d take a concerted effort not to imitate them with your own movements. That song is what kicks off Fortune’s recently released tape, OsshRock, a collection of earnest, rowdy rap meant for people who like to shake away all their inhibitions when they listen to music.
There aren’t many songs on the project that don’t hit hard, but a select few stand out. “Shake,” is one of the best examples of Fortune’s ability to match his smooth, nasal voice with production that thumps. On that one, little details like threatening to throw someone into the Chesapeake Bay — a body of water that runs through Maryland and Virginia — personalize his music in a way that people from his region can connect with intimately. On “Gorillaz,” his flow resembles that of Valee on “Womp Womp” and he slides in funny lines like “I play with the white, that’s a privilege.” Then, songs like “Gwaup” leads the mind to imagining how they would play out when performed live.
The joy of listening to Fortune’ OsshRock is that, while he is very much following the template of his rap contemporaries in flow and beat-selection, there is enough lying under the surface to see that many of his references still come from the culture surrounding D.C go-go. Continuing that lineage is something that only he and his local peers will be able to offer the rap world, authentically. Over a decade ago, Wale operated similarly but the difference was that he went for a more literal method of paying tribute to the homegrown funk derivative. What producers like Cheecho and artists like Black Fortune — a generation after Wale — are doing is sliding references in to affirm the people around them, rather than trying to inform the outside world. OsshRock succeeds in seamlessly pulling that off.