When his time came to address the crowd at the 2017 Warriors championship rally, Draymond Green walked out to “Anti,” SOB x RBE’s underground hit. As Green bobbed to the track on national TV, supporters of the young Vallejo rap crew danced along -- their fandom affirmed -- while the rest were left to ask, “Song??!” in comments and tweets.
Prior to the release of their 2017 self-titled mixtape, SOB x RBE had already amassed a Bay Area following through YouTube hits that drew millions of views. “Anti” -- which blared out of countless cars this year -- was the national tipping point for the rambunctious crew.
SOB x RBE, the album-length release that followed, solidified the collective's identity, showcasing its members' different, dynamic voices. There's Yhung T.O., a melodic master who harmonizes about love as fluidly as he does about guns; DaBoii, arguably the crew’s best lyricist, with an emphatic delivery that borders on a growl; Slimmy B, the charismatic elder who consistently delivers clever bars; and Lul G, the youngest member who experiments with both singing and rapping.
On SOB x RBE, the four young men rap and sing candidly about unity, distrusting outsiders (they repeat “circle got small” throughout the album), and wariness of law enforcement. Their production travels all over the West Coast, fluctuating between laid-back, soulful melodies and brazen, minimal beats that borrow from N.W.A. But the project manages to carry a sonic cohesiveness due in large part to T.O.’s autotune-lacquered hooks -- a connective tissue between the album’s spirited verses.
“Lane Changing,” which features all four members, is an exemplary showcase of SOB x RBE’s collective identity of brotherhood and self-reliance. On the jubilant track, which re-works Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “Ain’t Nobody,” each member asserts the crew’s unshakeable bond in his own style: “Strictly Only Brothers / If you not, you irrelevant,” raps DaBoii.
Following the success of their mixtape, SOB x RBE kept busy with a national tour, capped by a homecoming appearance at 106.1 KMEL’s Summer Jam. The crew's members have also put out a flurry of solo releases. One of the strongest is T.O.’s On My Momma, featuring a vulnerable, heartfelt titular track and the charming flex, “Blame ‘Em.” DaBoii’s Young Wild N-gga, another standout solo project, gave us “Humble,” a self-assured introvert’s anthem, and “Beastmode,” a repartee with Yhung T.O. over one of the zaniest beats of the year.
Establishing their individual identities will, no doubt, make each member of SOB x RBE stronger for their next collective output -- which fans across the country eagerly await.
We'll be posting our top ten local albums of 2017 everyday through Dec. 22. Check back here to see which other albums made our list.