This week, I celebrate my 167th birthday (or so). Rather than have a party at a friend's house or, god forbid, a club, I'm (as you read this) with my lady in the land of my youth: sunny Southern California, Venice Beach to be exact. As I write this, however, I'm in that sketchy prevacation period where I'm on edge and my patience is thinner than my man Budo; on top of that, seemingly every couple days, some rapper has a vague issue with me for not liking shitty rap, namely theirs. I realize that good taste is a burden to someone in my position, but I'm cursed with it, via years of careful and cultured cultivation. So if you yourself have an issue with me, shoot me an e-mail at hiphop@thestranger.com to air it out, or kindly leap from the nearest ferryboat.

Artists, myself included, have to leave room for humility (outside of this column, I try to practice it regularly). They just might not be as tight as they believe or as their friends gas them up to be, even if they're told so nightly. True talent can take years to develop, and a true artist may never be satisfied. I am happy that my man Neema—after seeing years of hard grind, thousands and thousands of hand-to-hand CD sales, packed shows, and the enmity of a million loser rappers—is still striving to make better art. Because, frankly, most of his shit for years was, to me, kind of terrible; still, I appreciated his spirit and perseverance in the face of those who would make a mockery of him. There are a million terrible rappers who believe they're owed a living because they keep turning out mediocre shit, and then there are some who do it because they simply have to. Over half of those folks are still fucking awful but, god bless 'em, I get it; few folks have the ability (or, more than likely the case, the discretion) to arrive on the scene fully formed.

Neema is not only making the best music of his fairly well-known local career—which, you know, kudos—he's making music I actually enjoy, a fact tha's blowing my mind even as I type this. The title track to his new EP, Black Roses (featuring Sol and Lace Cadence on the hook), is good rap. Thankfully, he eases up on the double-time, and his actual personality has room to shine as he gives the drama-laden BoomBox Massacre production space to breathe. The rest I've heard is similar, all a marked step up for the town's out-the-trunk king.

Support The Stranger

Neema celebrates the release of Black Roses with a two-night stint at Neumos, on Thursday, July 14, and Friday, July 15. The first night brings the Bay's own Mistah F.A.B., as well as the Tac's Rockwell Powers, Cash Clepto, DJ Mack Long, and host Grynch. Night two nets you performances from Lace Cadence, Latin Rose, Mack Long, and your host, Eddie Francis of KUBE 93.

Word, fam. recommended