The Young Giantz are a throwback to when black masculinity signified black power. Rocking Dickies, Chuck Taylors and baseball caps, they make blue-collar music for the unemployed, overworked and underpaid.
As the sons of early '90s rap legend Playa Hamm of the Penthouse Players Clique, brothers Deuce Mac and Bigg Joe West were born rappers. It was the family trade. Growing up, Mac remembers “Quik doing beats in the living room. Pops outside with a drum machine and microphone hooked up to speakers, niggas in the front yard barbequeing and rapping and filming. We just thought that’s how it was. That was normal for us.”
Raised in South Central, they were surrounded by gang culture. “Our neighborhood was real gang-infested,” Mac says. It was impossible for them to avoid. If anyone saw them hanging out with some of their friends who were gang members, according to Joe, they would automatically get associated or “put into a box” with the neighborhood gang, making them a potential target for police and rival gangs alike. The possibility of getting shot while walking down the street was just a fact of everyday life. “What, I’m not going to go outside and play? I’m not going to ride my bike? This is home,” Joe says.
The brothers looked up to the gangs. They had “the money, the women, the cars, the chains.” Unfazed by police, the gangs seemed untouchable. Seeing that as kids, Mac thought, “‘Shit man, I want to be like them niggas.’ But when you got a father in your life, you don’t need them for direction.”
The brothers were fortunate to grow up in a two-parent household, and Mac recalls their father often saying to them, “Do you want to be responsible for everything they [the gang] do that you not cool with? You start gang-banging, you responsible for everything they did before you and everything they do after you, even if you don’t agree with it.” Though Deuce Mac and Bigg Joe naturally “embody what we was brought up around,” under their parents’ guidance, music gave them an alternative path.
As if predestined, Young Giantz signed to Priority Records, a label that 25 years ago was the home of Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, the same imprint that signed their father. Just recently the brothers released 2000 Ninetiez, an EP of assorted concepts that showcases their versatility. Produced by Dae One, Jellyroll and a host of others, Ninetiez is a tribute to the G-funk West Coast rap that scored the Giantz’s childhood. Opening track “I Am South Central” is a West Coast anthem that doubles as a pledge of loyalty to their neighborhood. “I talk too much, I can’t go Hollywood,” Mac raps.
The EP also salutes their East Coast influences. The sample of Ahmad Jamal’s “Swahililand” in the production on “I Am South Central” complements yet contrasts with the jam’s message, considering that East Coast mainstay De La Soul made it popular with their J Dilla-produced single “Stakes Is High.” As fans and students of the craft, the Giantz's musical spectrum isn’t confined to their region. Besides, hip-hop’s origin is just a matter of fact.
“How can you not be influenced by the East when they invented the shit?” Mac says. On “Let’s Get Rich,” the hook is a like an ode to Camp Lo’s “Luchini.” “Their cohesiveness, the way they came together was just so dope,” Joe says. “We love East Coast. We just West Coast so we gon’ rep what we rep,” Mac adds.
One of the most striking cuts on 2000 Ninetiez is “Wit U,” which calls out the trend of popular rappers like Young Thug and Lil B cross-dressing and “putting high heels on hip-hop.” They lyrics may sound homophobic, but the brothers insist that the track is more about how these “fun boys” are disrespecting hip-hop — “making it weak and dumbing it down” to attract publicity and sell records.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with being gay,” Mac says. “We know people that’s gay and we cool with them. They cool with us. … It’s just that when it comes to this hip-hop shit, it’s different. That shit [cross-dressing] ain’t fly, homie, and we ain’t feeling it.” The brothers say they have no concerns about offending anyone or being “politically incorrect.” “When it comes to our music, we don’t walk in the studio on some, ‘I’m going to say this and I’m not going to say that.' If the beat make me say this, I’m going to do it.”
The Giantz represent the authenticity that West Coast rap was originally known for. It’s who they are. “Anybody who's doing something that I ain’t feeling, that’s who I’m talking to,” Mac says.
Right now, L.A. rap hasn’t been this pivotal since N.W.A’s “Express Yourself” helped further hip-hop’s mainstream impact. If this is “the golden age of L.A. hip-hop” as L.A. Weekly writer Jeff Weiss recently put it, then Young Giantz are adding to its potency, with a sound that's both hard as fuck and all too human.