On his new project, “Northside Flexin,” 18-year-old Chicago rapper Tony Santana seeks to make his presence known by standing for what he believes in.
Over 12 cuts, the young artist navigates complicated themes with cutthroat lyricism. One of the most prevalent subjects Santana explores is how to reconcile his appreciation for hip-hop’s roots with the headbanging, mindlessness that has gained popularity within the genre. This dichotomy becomes the focal point of “Northside Flexin,” and Santana immerses himself in it with finesse. From the jump-off, his ability to distill his life stories into captivating raps are apparent on the project’s opener, “Northside Coolin’.” Combined with a self-assured conviction that brings every beat on this mixtape to life, his bars offer a fresh perspective delivered with a sense of urgency. Producers CJthekid, K Swisha, Aubry and Cormill help bottle Santana’s fits of raw energy into tracks that go hard while they’re on and sit with a listener long after they end.