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03 Greedo, Los Angeles' no-longer-underground king and one of the most versatile singer-rapper-songwriters to emerge in years, is currently sitting in a Texas prison cell in the early days of a 20-year sentence. The multi-hyphenate talent was brought up on gun and drug charges at the height of a dizzying professional ascent that resulted in stellar projects like last year's Money Changes Everything and the recent God Level.
Ever prolific, Greedo told Billboard he intended to record 30 albums to satisfy fans during his prison stint, and at the time of that interview he had 13 of them in the can. These aren't Kanye-in-Wyoming records either, as Greedo's projects are stuffed with dozens of infectious, insightful, and incisive tracks that are buoyed by his extemporaneous recording style.
Greedo was only just starting to get the national shine his unconventional, prodigious skills warranted when he was sentenced, so to bring the unfamiliar up to speed and honor the musical legacy of a true living legend, Pigeons & Planes has teamed with R Baron Group, the management company behind trailblazing West Coast acts like Greedo, Drakeo the Ruler, and Shoreline Mafia to present The Best of 03 Greedo. It's a worthy entry point for the uninitiated, but one that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of his catalog.
The project highlights his versatility, from breezy, laid back anthems like "Rude" to his stone-faced Drakeo collaboration "Out the Slums," but for Greedo, joy, anguish, celebration, and pain all lived inches from one another, and few artists are as capable of capturing the extent and depth of their emotions verbally as he is.
Greedo will keep flooding the streets with thrilling, inventive tracks (he's already released a joint EP with Nef the Pharoah since his sentence began), but the talent he displays on The Best of 03 Greedo is a reminder of what a shame it is to see him hamstrung in his creative prime by a vindictive system.
Listen to The Best of 03 Greedo above and read on for quotes from his peers and collaborators about his one-of-a-kind personality and musical legacy.
The first time I ever spoke to Greedo was at 6AM on FaceTime. He hit me from a gas station in Atlanta still up from the night before, wearing sunglasses, and told me we were doing a project before we ever met (after hearing my music with Key!).
When we had our session, he walked in, picked the first beat I played him and recorded the entire song in 10-15 minutes. He walked out after the hook and said “Y’all don't know what I’m talking about do you?” and looked at everyone in the room. “These shoes I’m wearing are Kevin Bradley Nikes. He's a skater, it’s my girl's cousin, so when I said I had the GRIND and you never had it / I made a FLIP rolling by in traffic / When I’m BOARD I get back at it, I was talkin' street shit in all skateboarding terms." We all looked at each other in disbelief that he came up with all of this in his first few minutes hearing the beat. We went on to make over 70 songs and some of the most important music of my life. Free 03.
Ohgeesy [of Shoreline Mafia]:
Greedo’s music means everything. It’s R&B for street niggaz. You can hear the pain in his voice, but you can also hear the joy. We all turned nothin’ into somethin’.
Rob Vicious [of Shoreline Mafia]:
Greedo’s one of the most important people in my life right now.
The thing with Greedo is he’s very melodic and combines it with bars and shit that you can relate to, that kind of hit you like, Damn, he said some shit right here that I can relate to my life even though I haven’t lived a life as crazy as Greedo has. My man has “Living Legend” fucking tatted on his face, like, he’s insane, but you can still relate in some aspect to some of the shit that he’s talking about. That’s the amazing part about Greedo is the fact that he didn’t write none of that shit that I’ve been in the studio with him for. It just all came out, and you’re like, “What the fuck? You did this in one take?” He’s like, “That’s what I do, man. Let’s go to the next one.”
I feel for anybody up against jail time. But it hurts me more when they try to bring down someone who is actually trying to better their life. I'm in a situation where they are trying to do me the same way.
Nef the Pharaoh:
It was this one time when we were in L.A. working with the producer DTB. We both freestyle, and it’s lightweight a treat to see him freestyle. He starts his doing his humming thing, you know, the 03 Greedo thing, and I’ve never seen it before—he hums these harmonies, tells the engineer, “Alright, keep that,” and then he starts rapping and he’s humming and rapping in combination. And he’s still spitting real bars! In his freestyle he said something about having listened to The Jacka. I’m like, How does he know about The Jacka?! He said, "Every summer, I stayed in Sacramento and hung around Mack Road." He knew about the Mob Figgaz, Keak da Sneak, hella Bay legends!
It was an honor to work with 03 before he went away, his music had such an impact on the West Coast recently, it was like being in the studio with an L.A. legend in the making. He's crazy talented and funny, dude can knock out a whole project in one night off the top of his head. West Coast gonna miss him, but he'll be back soon. Free 03!
Greedo is a great artist and I fuck with him on a personal level. He’s the homeboy. I just feel like it’s fucked up that all the hard work he’s done for years was about to change his life. He’s a great guy though, and will be back. I'm repping the Free 03 movement, because he for sure wasn’t supposed to go to jail right now. We need to trade someone for Greedo and get him out.
Man, working with 03 was a dope experience. He showed up to our session by himself, that’s real rare in the rap industry, but it just showed you he was ready to go to work and he did exactly that. As soon as he came in, he showed everybody love and immediately came up with the hook after hearing my verse on the record, he loved it too. His excitement made me feel even better about the record. He actually laid down three records with us that night, too! Greedo is a real genuine, humble and good dude. I’m happy we had the opportunity to connect before he turned himself in. Free 03.
Our energy in the studio was amazing with Kai Cash and CYN. Greedo made the vibe into a party at the studio, where we all immediately clicked and we recorded not just one track, but several. So, definitely expect more with Greedo, myself and CYN. In today’s music world, Greedo brings this smooth, but edgy flow that goes with any beat and make me just want to dance. His uniqueness is one-of-a-kind and at the studio that night we celebrated our connection as we knew the verdict. This track with Kai Cash we recorded is going to be one that will make Greedo’s sound a stamp.
Working with Greedo is like working with a typewriter.