In the past few months West Coast rapper 100s has begun making the tricky transition from regional name to underground sensation, largely due to the strength of 2012’s debut mixtape Ice Cold Perm (yes, he spends a lot of time on his hair, no, he doesn’t have a perm). With an album cover homage to Snoop’s The Doggfather and a classic-style pimp video for “Brick $ell Phone” (“Tell a bitch to ride the dick / like I ride the beat”), this young Berkeley-based pimp rap emcee has nonetheless managed to create a sound all his own, relying on a sly sense of humor and a cadence that’s as cold as it is unique.
100s took an interesting path to success starting with his difficult teenage years spent at a boarding school in his father’s Ivory Coast homeland before returning home to Berkeley to work on what would become Ice Cold Perm. Indeed there’s something about 100s’ sound that isn’t easily placed, whether it be West African in influence or a more general kind of sonic worldliness that comes of travel and exposure to other sounds and locales.
But most of Ice Cold Perm plays like a solid fusion of West Coast aesthetics and Dirty South pimp rap, with a delivery reminiscent of Lil Boosie and a synth-heavy production by Joe Wax. 100s shows love for New Orleans and Juve, specifically, on the booty-poppin bounce track “Bout That Life” (“Shoutout to Juvenile / Lemme get the keys to the Rover truck”) and again in “1999,” a throwback joint that name-checks number one stunnas and 400 Degreez. 100s reigns over a world of style and control where a hairstyle is everything and a beat can never be too cold. The endlessly catchy lead track, “My Activator,” is a testament to a perfect perm and a troublesome hoe, its creeping minor melody line instantly memorable.
The track “Slow Drip” shows a darker side, with strong lyricism (“Yall locked up, I can’t make an appearance / I’m too busy on a balcony drunk, screamin my lyrics”) matched perfectly by a sparse melody line and a fuzzed out bass. The closing track, “Hemsworth Outro,” produced by up-and-coming EDM darling Ryan Hemsworth, ties together lose ends and gives a few sonic clues as to where 100s might be headed in his next tape. Indeed, his follow-up project, the much-anticipated Sex Symbol, also produced largely by Joe Wax, will reportedly feature more R&B, more funk, and 100s showing off his singing as well as rapping abilities.
Fresh off a much-talked-about set at SXSW, 100s has just been added to Ineffable Music’s post-Paid Dues Trinidad James showcase in Santa Cruz on April 3. If Sex Symbol lives up to the power of Ice Cold Perm, we predict 100s will end 2013 as one of the most talked-about names in underground rap.