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Leon St. Heron: A Self-Portrait

Leon St. Heron mixes self-revelation with subtle word play on new single

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Leon St. Heron: A Self-Portrait
    Leon St. Heron's latest single is bound to turn heads.

    San Diego's Leon St. Heron hasn't wasted any time in 2016. Starting off the new year with back-to-back singles, his latest, "Saint Martyn," mixes lyrics invoking black awareness and subtle word play to paint a vivid self-portrait. And it's one that exposes, in earnest, what makes him tick.

    There's a slow build, opening with a spoken-word intro, "They stole your land/ Raped your wife/ Took away your name/ Take away your life," that dissolves into a swirling echo of looped sounds played in reverse before Heron -- in his smooth nasal flow atop crisp Stimp C.-produced drums -- gives props to his inner circle: "My n----- quarterbacking ain't no lacking in this huddle."

    He's reflective ("In high school got all C's") and aggressive ("Who them n----- talking like, hands don't get thrown/ Who them n----- talking like we don't condone, violence"). It might seem gratuitous, particularly with a title like "Saint Martyn" but this is about self-preservation; it's live and let live but overstep your boundaries and Heron will defend himself.

    He fully articulates that idea, "Turn a Martin into Malcolm/ A Malcolm to a martyr," then asks, "What you know about that/ Anger in my heart/ Fire in my blunt?" before abruptly switching gears to admit, "P---y in my bed/ I use it as a crutch" in the same couplet. It isn't very PC but that's not the point. These are revelations -- his truths -- and it makes for a lot of emotional depth. It's not sentimental or mushy but rather genuine, it's sincere; he's honest.

    Even so, "Saint Martyn" doesn't get by on honesty alone -- it sounds good too. And while it's easy for artists to slip into cookie-cutter personas or charm listeners with personality, sometimes it's more compelling to hear a former C student marry the principles of MLK and Malcolm X into creative work that's not only revealing but that also makes your head nod.

    J. Smith, aka 1019, is a San Diego native, rap fan and one half of the rap duo Parker & the Numberman.You can follow him on Instagram at 1019_the_numberman or on Twitter