With all the glitz and glamor surrounding rap music, the idea of rapping as a day job might be hard for some fans to imagine. It might be even harder to fathom the concept of teaching other people to rap for a living. But that’s what San Francisco rapper Blimes — also known as Blimes Brixton — has been doing for the last two years as she self-funded the production and promotion of her debut album, Castles, which is out this week on her own all-female label, Peach House.
By day, Blimes is a rap coach for the TBS celebrity battle rap show Drop The Mic. She teaches stars like Gina Rodriguez and Anthony Anderson — and even The Muppets — to tap into their inner MC behind-the-scenes for the televised portion of the show, where athletes, actors, comedians, singers, and other entertainers trade lighthearted barbs for the amusement of a television audience that might not be able to stomach the 100 percent authentic version of battle rap.
That authentic battle rap scene is Blimes cut her teeth as an MC named Oh Blimey. However, she felt that her personality clashed with the necessities of the battle rap game — she’s a naturally positive, inviting person, where battle rap requires a more cutthroat mentality — and her own tendency to cut herself down in preparation for lyrical jabs about her sex, weight, and orientation as an openly gay woman. She tapped out, switching her focus to putting out music and running her label.
The hard work she put in began to pay off early last year when a collaborative single with Seattle rapper Gifted Gab, “Come Correct,” became a minor viral sensation behind its playful display of cerebral wordplay and intricate rhyme schemes that instantly set the pair apart from other women who were becoming prominent at the same time. Much has been made of the cresting wave of female talent in the rap game, but where many of their cohort sports skintight, revealing clothing and brightly colored wigs — and there’s nothing wrong with that — Blimes and Gab “came correct” with a stripped-down, throwback style that appealed to rap purists and curious onlookers alike. They followed up with “Nasty,” trading bars in a video garbed in old-school styles reminiscent of ’90s rap legends like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah.
The same boom-bap-centered, lyrically-focused craftsmanship is on full display on Castles, along with a variety of other eclectic styles, from the trappy snare rattle on “Woke Up In Paris” to the festive horns and claps provided by Redhino on “Snake Skin Boots.” Blimes is a rapper’s rapper, with a precise, die-cut cadence that reflects her time spent in scenes that forced her to be sharper than the rappers around her. She deftly weaves personal tales of coming to terms with her identity and finding strength in creativity with silver-tongued slick talk designed to bring a stank face to listeners as they clamor for the rewind button.
There’s even a guest appearance from Drop The Mic host Method Man himself, who offered his services based on the exemplary work Blimes puts in on the show turning even rhythmically-challenged comedians into lyrical assassins. He appears on a track called “Hot Damn,” where his full arsenal of verbal weaponry is on full display, yet Blimes’ verse proves every bit his match, a dance of lyrical daggers that leaves no doubt who’s leading.
With all the fanfare surrounding some of her more trendy contemporaries, it’d be easy to imagine the independent, Bay-bred Blimes getting lost in the rush. But given the fact that she has carved out this space for herself and her Peach House artists by being willing to put in the work, she should be alright. After all, rap is her job and crafting something like Castles? Just another day at the office.
Castles is out now via Peach House. You can get it here.