In most corners of the rap world, artists present themselves as either larger-than-life kingpins or 24-hour hustlers grinding their way from the bottom to the top. But like the rest of us, Alexander Epps, better known as Al Great, falls somewhere in the middle of those extremes. On his solid mixtape from July, "Summer Nights," the East Baltimore MC portrays himself as an everyman, nine-to-five type, more concerned with paying bills on time than high-end brands. "I just figured, I can't be the only person living like this," Great said recently. "Whenever I ran up on someone I knew, he had the same problems as me. I could no longer relate to the $100,000 watch or these cars I can't afford." Throughout the tape, Al shows his range as a songwriter, deftly jumping from a luxurious love song ("Bitter Heart," which sounds like a better-than-necessary, Pharrell-produced knockoff) to "Rock With It," a track that heavily samples the Washed Out chillwave hit "Feel It All Around." Al, who has worked as a Verizon technician for the past 12 years, says he's considering re-releasing "Summer Nights" with new tracks next year, but there's no definite plans yet. No matter what, he says he will continue to spread a positive, more relatable message in his music. "People have this big [idea] when they turn 30 that they need to be millionaires," he said. "But life is just what it is. You need to be thankful for what you have."
Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun
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