Is it sacrilegious to smoke weed inside an abandoned church? That seems to be the central question for Baby Stone Gorillas on the set of their “Keep Goin” music video. Dress shirts for the video, the church rental countdown, our interview – these are afterthoughts for the up-and-coming LA rap group as they exhale the only clouds under the blue skies and the blinding sun above the steps of the church in Glassell Park.
When they’ve procured their forgotten dress shirts and set their blunts to ashes, EKillaOffDaBlocck (21), 5Much (19), P4K (20) and Top5ivee (22) stroll past dark wooden benches and up to the burgundy-lined altar in the humble, aged and happily cool building. They stand behind four silent microphones and in front of a lone cameraman, preaching the gospel of perseverance that has helped their rise since 2021’s “STL Caps & Jay Hats.”
Over the past year, the four childhood friends-turned-rappers have released an ever-improving and increasingly popular string of singles. BABYST5XNE GORILLAS (Baby Stone Gorillas / EMPIRE). They have the potential to be the biggest rappers to emerge from Los Angeles’ Baldwin Village neighborhood, the gang-rich, palm-lined community that locals know by its foliage-inspired and far more evocative nickname: the Jungles.
“This project lets you know we can make music,” Top5ivee says after the video is shot, with him and EKillaOffDaBlocck answering most questions. “It’s similar to singles, but you can see the development in the songs.”
Like the singles that preceded it, BABYST5XNE GORILLAS is a tour of the jungles by four scarred but swaggering natives. Songs full of flex and gutted clips are punctuated with eulogies for the deceased. Wear the wrong baseball cap on the block or in Jim Gilliam Park, and your family could airbrush your face at a pro club.
Unlike those bachelors, BABYST5XNE GORILLAS songs like “Keep Goin” and “Do It Up,” assisted by Wallie the Sensei, feature more refined, more precise writing and hooks. With beats from ubiquitous and renowned LA producers like Ron-RonTheProducer and Low the Great, the sound doesn’t stray far from that of contemporary LA street rap. It’s a post-Mustard bounce with drums banging like locker room doors slamming and sparse keyboard melodies that oscillate between sunny and ominous. Beyond the sounds, however, Baby Stone Gorillas don’t sound like their recent ancestors. The sedating, coded slang of the late Drakeo the Ruler, the lean, self-tuned croons of the incarcerated 03 Greedo, the jaded, deadpan punchlines of BlueBucksClan – you won’t find them. Each member offers a singular and constantly evolving voice, the four united by their tireless energy, their intolerance of postures and their life in the jungles.
“I would honestly say we are a new wave. I am confident in saying this. Top5ivee. “We are us. No one could be us.
If you’ve never walked through the jungles, you might know the cul-de-sac as the street where Denzel Washington delivered his beleaguered “King Kong” monologue in training day. Or maybe you watched Waka Flocka Flame shake her dreads and close the block in the “Hard in Da Paint” video. For decades, it was home to the Black P. Stones, a Chicago-born Blood ensemble founded in the late 1950s that eventually made its way West.
Listen to Baby Stone Gorillas songs or watch their videos and you’ll quickly glean a list of acceptable baseball caps for BPS members (or anyone who doesn’t want to be confused with the opposition). The group chuckles when I ask if anyone would like to squeeze me over my White Sox hat. “They’ll look at you and walk past,” EKillaOffDaBlocck said between laughs.
Each member of Baby Stone Gorillas has varying levels of BPS affiliation and tattoos of varying prominence and visibility. Some members had family directly involved, while others were drawn into gang life by their friends. “The place other people grow up in, the life they live, the rules they follow and the things they do come from there. It’s normal for them,” Top5ivee says. “When we were growing up, It seemed normal to us.”
Before they started making music, the four members gravitated to Chief Keef, Lil Durk, G Herbo and other Chicago exercise paragons. They loved the sound and the parallels between the violence in their respective fields. Locally, Baldwin Village rappers like the late Take Money (aka Tiny M) and Nfant (aka Lil Infant), who you can hear on the unofficial Jungles anthem “Really from the Village Remix,” have been sounding loud- car speakers. Each member acknowledges their debt to them for leading the way.
Although 5Much is the youngest member of the group, he was the first to experiment with music. He learned to play drums in church and started making beats while in juvenile detention with Top5ivee and EKillaOffDaBlocck. But it all came together at Red Rooms Studios in Hawthorne just over a year ago. Stepping into the cabin for the first time in their lives, they recorded a mix of duets and trios before finally coming together as a quartet to record “STL Caps & Jay Hats” to a beat they discovered on YouTube. The response was immediate and enough to catch the attention of Ron-Ron, who produced the local hit “Baby Stone Gorillas”. Single after single got bigger than the next.
“We didn’t have music and DSP. We weren’t thinking so hard about it. We were just putting it on YouTube. EKillaOffDaBlockk says. “We promoted it on Instagram and people in our area started listening to it. It was all local love and then it blew up.
Beneficiaries and victims of our insatiable digital age, Baby Stone Gorillas didn’t want to lose momentum by recording BABYST5XNE GORILLAS. They recorded a flurry of singles and shot videos for each, releasing them as they recorded the album in a three-week marathon. “You only live once, so we take advantage of our situation,” says Top5ivee.
EKillaOffDaBlocck, P4K, Top5ivee and 5Much seem exhausted when the video shoot ends. Maybe they’re still reeling from their previous weekend in Vegas, where Mustard shouted them onstage. Or maybe they smoked themselves in sedation outside the church. Anyway, they have another interview that night, studio time scheduled for later in the week, and more videos to shoot. They must continue until the May release of their next project.