Jimi Hendrix arrived in London on Sept. 24, 1966, as an unknown guitarist. By June 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the biggest acts in Britain. Heading to London in February of next year for his first-ever international performance, Huey Briss isn’t an unknown guitarist like Hendrix, but he is a gunslinging lyricist whose latest album, Black Wax, is rooted in gritty low-fi production and illustrates his untapped potential as a rapper.
“No disrespect to Future Hendrix,” says a lively Briss, after I bring up this Hendrix comparison to him.
I met the 27-year-old Huey Briss in an apartment belonging to Senay Kenfe (rapper, manager and founder of Eddie’s Liquor Collective) near Rose Park, which borders the hipster side of Long Beach. As we went back and forth talking, Briss lit a joint while his girlfriend sitting to his right tapped away at her phone. Briss and Raven pass the joint between each other as Miles Davis plays continuously in the background.
I first heard about Briss when I stumbled onto the video “Gil Scott Never Lied,” a song where he calls out Lil Xan and Tekashi 6ix9ine, referring to the latter by his hacky rainbow grill. Because of them, our conversation delves into fake rappers, so I bluntly ask him how can he tell when someone is a phony gangster.
“Most pretenders feel like they have something prove so they’re always trying to prove something,” Briss says. “Most of the toughest gangsters I know are trying to divert the convo away from that. They’re like ‘Let’s not even bring that energy, son.’ We from the hood so we make fun of hood situations, but we would never take the time to put our energy toward it. I see where that goes; I don’t want to be in no mainline, checking in with no yard ni**a, fuck that.”
An eclectic bunch enter the apartment a few minutes into our interview. Kenfe arrives first, followed by fellow Norfside rapper Seafood Sam and Red Bag with a McDonald’s cup and blunts in hand. Kenfe refers to them as “The Monkey Crew” as his roommate and a young woman walk in last, dragging a big bed frame to a room upstairs.
“You going to have sex on it,” I hear one of them say. Everyone in the room laughs.
Briss had his start freestyling with friends and doing open mics, earning his cipher stripes. “It was like a very ‘crabs in the bucket’ [if I can’t have it, neither can you] mentality,” he recalls. Eventually, he got people’s attention, particularly one rapper. “He was one of the first artists to fuck with me,” Briss says of Pyramid Vitra of Oddfuture fame. Their collaboration resulted in the tracks “224” and “Slamp,” a major breakthrough for Briss.
“He was dating my best friend Seafood Sam’s sister at the time, and we would interact all the time,” he says. “He had a studio and we needed a studio.”
Vitra took Briss to South by Southwest and introduced him to Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf and the whole Stones Throw camp. As an up-and-coming rapper, meeting big-time rappers was a very big deal, something Briss is very grateful for.
After that, through a mutual friend he met his current producer Nikobeats (who produced Sidekick Files and Black Wax). Niko at the time had no rapper, and Briss was happy to fill the position.
Now he has his eyes set for bigger and better things. Even though the North Long Beach native just dropped Black Wax late-last year, Briss already has a new album slated for release in spring 2020, with several singles and videos ready for release before then.
A short jail stint for trying to film a music video at Cal State Long Beach actually helped lead to Briss going to London and having his current opportunities. “I ended up getting on one of the little golf carts,” he explains of the campus incident. “I rode around on a golf cart in the video and they were kind of pissed off.”
Unable to finish the project, he scrapped that video and decided to make “Gil Scott Never Lied” instead. “[Gil Scott Heron’s] daughter ended up hearing the song on Facebook on some random shit and sharing it,” says Briss. “I feel like that song served his purpose and it taught me like how music travels and the responsibility I have in what I say.”
Although he doesn’t delve into specifics, Briss describes his upcoming album as brighter than Black Wax and more autobiographical. “Like just the experiences that happened to me that could change your perspective at such a young age. I had to make this album and get over it. It was more like a therapy for me.”
Black Wax, BIG BAG small world by RedBag and Dior Velour by Seafood Sam are out now.
Twitter: @HueyBriss; @SeafoodSam; @RedBagRecords; @senaykenfe
Instagram: @hueybriss; @seafoodsam; @redbagrecords; @senaykenfe
I like to stare at my computer. Occasionally I type words to pass the time. Those words are usually about music.