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If D.C.’s role in hip-hop is to be a crossroads where high meets low, South hits North, and new messes with old, then the existence of Garvey the Chosen One makes perfect sense. He’s a Cardozo High School alum who makes no particular effort, other than the occasional geographic reference, to sound D.C.-specific. But you could argue that his synthesis of various elements—Southern-style beats, coast-city cockiness, ’00s coke-rap hyperbole, old-school craftsmanship—could only happen in a scene where anything goes. For now, that’s the DMV, and for Garvey, it means loud and proud songs with big-ass hooks.
Many of the 12 tracks on the no-filler Money Train, which is being released on CD through local DTLR stores and digitally online, have an immediately familiar combination of broad bass and Lex Luger-style marching-band stomp. But Garvey comes to those sounds in his own uptown D.C. way: He’s got a bright, showy, check-this-shit-out drawl instead of, say, a goony, bored-by-it-all cadence or a blowhard, Rick Ross-esque delivery.
He generally prefers to sling street metaphors—“I shoot the crown up off your cranium/.357, eight rounds, titanium/Put a big hole up in your dome/Dallas Stadium,” from “Where They At”—or push the limits of sex slang: “My bitches don’t just suck dick/They give abortions,” from the title track. But occasionally he’ll go with a straight-up narrative, and the results can be evocative: “Hot sunny day, sittin’ on a crate/Eatin’ sunflower seeds, watchin’ the alley way/Runners in the building, blow up in the windowsill/B-more connect, met him at Arundel Mills,” he says during “Dope Strip.”
He sounds more honest and enthused, however, when he’s indulging his freaky side. But nothing on Money Train, alas, has the pizazz of “Beat It Like a Dog,” from his 2011 Graveyard Shift mixtape, with its immortal stanza, “Last night I had one bitch on my dick/And her best friend on my balls/After they broke me off/I took ’em both to the mall.”
“Roller” gets close, though. It has a funky-waterbed bassline, and D.C. producer Young I Auto-tunes Garvey’s voice in a way that suggests the MC has been warped b y having access to too many flavors of orgasm: “I got hoes that got hoes that own estates/I got hoes from 1-4 to Morgan State.” Elsewhere, Arlington’s Alonzo “Text” Sosa does most of the heavy lifting; his seven contributions range from East Coast-style coolness (album-closer “60 Million,” where Garvey name-checks his favorite MCs, including Tupac and Jay-Z), to R&B-based thump (“Castro”) and Deep South drama (“Money Train”).
Garvey’s catchphrases ultimately tie everything together: The chorus of “In Town Outta Town,” where he playfully stretches out vowels, is super-sticky; likewise, when he says “got you niggas scaaaared” in “Scared,” it’s as if he’s simultaneously self-satisfied with his musicality and mildly disturbed by his potential for depravity. Throughout all of it, Garvey’s first priority is to be entertaining, whether he’s totally bullshitting us or not. You don’t need to be from the DMV to understand that.