The Washington Wizards may be mired in a rebuilding year with only a few bright spots, but deeper in the city lies the Washington Slizzards, a hotbed of artistic talent led by rapper Ras Nebyu.
The self-ascribed “point guard” of the collective, Nebyu is a charismatic and youthful presence, with poignant lyrics and playful song themes spread out across his most recent album, “Uptown Lion Walking.”
Nebyu’s personality shines on every moment of the project, making a compelling case for himself and his team. During the project, Nebyu displays his versatility, highlighting his Ethiopian heritage and culture, Slizzards membership, stoner tendencies, and DC upbringing.
That’s what makes “Uptown Lion Walking” so special: it is an unabridged representation of Nebyu’s cultural understanding as a young man in Washington, D.C. As an independent artist, he doesn’t have to pander to larger movements in hip-hop and rap, instead opting for a sound more intimate to his sense of self. And he does it all while showing off a flexible delivery. He’s the type that could probably also find success as a radio talk show host or a sports commentator- he has “the voice” that grabs your attention and keeps it.
Fellow Slizzard and primary producer, Architect, also shows off his skill on the album, switching from boom-bap rap beats to reggae-influenced drums on “2 Lighters” without missing a step. He even drops a verse of his own on “Red Eyes,” a testament to their cannabis enthusiasm and tendency to take late-night plane rides.
“Uptown Lion Walking” isn’t without its slow-moving moments, but the album’s highs are far better than its lows, as tracks like “Soul to Keep,” “Take it Easy,” “Black Favre” and “2 Lighters” create an energy that sticks around for the whole album. And based on a recent Instagram live, he’s been cooking up some new work that could be released soon.