California rapper OMB Peezy has lived in Sacramento since he was 12, but he was raised in Mobile, Alabama. Since this winter, when I first got hooked on the gumbo-funk melody of the 20-year-old’s breakout single, “Lay Down,” he’s risen to the lower tiers of national prominence. He’s attracted the attention of the Fader and Complex (among others), and in May he landed a record deal with 300, but he’s still just the second performer on a four-act bill tomorrow night at Reggie’s Rock Club. The emerging narrative attached to OMB Peezy is that he’s a new avatar of regional rap: I’ve received a PR e-mail that says his “music brings regional rap to mainstream prominence.” This makes me wonder why people are so quick to forget Kevin Gates, whose image and music are so rooted in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that when his 2016 album Islah knocked Adele from the top of the Billboard 200 the magazine still described him as a “regional hip-hop star.”
That’s not to say I can’t see why OMB Peezy is considered regional. He’s rooted in two cities with distinctly different identities, and in his music he sounds like a person from those places. OMB Peezy refashioned the track for “Lay Down” out of “Indicted” by Cleveland rapper Lil Cray, and in Lil Cray’s track you can hear the influence of Celly Cel’s 90s G-funk cut “It’s Going Down Tonight”—and Celly Cel is from Vallejo, California, just southwest of Sacramento. (You can go even further if you want: Celly Cel’s song, with its sluggish pace and bottom-heavy funk bass, samples Keith Sweat’s smoldering “How Deep Is Your Love.”)
As fun as it is to connect the dots, OMB Peezy makes those links seem irrelevant. On “Lay Down” every arrhythmic percussive cluster and featherweight key melody sounds created for him. His freewheeling flow feels like it could change at any moment, he breaks up his bars with fleeting half-sung lines, and he proudly emphasizes his southern twang. Even when he raps about his hard childhood, he carries himself like the only path in front of him rises.