There is no question that Baltimore-bred artists have experienced musical success in the mainstream. Los, Ill Conscious, and Spank Rock are just a few recognizable names that have carried Baltimore’s hard-nose, gritty attitude into their musical persona. But does Baltimore have talent moving forward to keep them in the limelight? Enter Flat Stanley (real name Geoffrey Gao), a 21-year old beats producer originally from Irvine, California, now nestled in Baltimore’s colorful musical culture. Making noise in the beat-making scene at Johns Hopkins University, Gao is an up-and-coming hip-hop producer ready to make a big splash. Gao’s talent and work was finally noticed when his latest song “Break_Thru” made it to Stylss’s popular monthly playlist for January 2016! Before coming to this career milestone, Gao’s road to this point was not easy.
Gao started cooking beats in the quiet dorms of Johns Hopkins University in early 2013 using Ableton and a Maschine Mikro. “I was listening to a ton of Dilla and Nujabes, of course, just to learn sampling,” Gao says. “It was probably really annoying to my roommates because I was looping the same s*** over and over again.” Gao’s grim, signature sound can be credited to his many influences, which include Flying Lotus, Clams Casino, Knxwledge, Madlib, MF Doom, and Lil’ Ugly Mane. Since emerging onto the scene, Gao is constantly evolving his style; from exploring the trendy explosive rhythms of trap beats to toying with industrial noise, Gao is always offering listeners something that is sonically fresh and diverse.
Gao currently has two EPs available on his Bandcamp page. His first discographic submission titled ☠ ☠ ☠ is a love letter to trap music featuring samples from hip-hop heavyweights Drake and Denzel Curry. The track list includes Gao’s proudest career work, Wicket Kingdom, a beautifully mixed, collaborative effort with Future Islands frontman/ part-time underground rapper, Hemlock Ernst. The track also features an airy, serene vocal contribution from Blacksage singer, Josephine Olivia. My personal favorite from this EP is His+Name+Is+Aubrey which is by far Gao’s most explosive production.
Gao’s other EP, Sampler Platter, showcases cleaner, more sophisticated beats with outstanding production. For the production of this EP, Gao abandons Ableton and trap-flavored beats for a Roland SP-404 Sampling Workstation and warped hip-hop instrumentals. Most of the beats off this mixtape would be appropriate fits for Chester Watson or Earl Sweatshirt, whose styles and subdued vocal delivery are fitting for the murky tone set by Gao. My personal favorite off this EP is X-O.
After being noticed by Stylss, Gao plans to pursue more ambitious projects and live set appearances. If you are into progressive electronic hip-hop, Gao is an artist to keep under watch. His two EPs currently available on Bandcamp are sure to please both traditional hip hop heads and beat fanatics scavenging for a progressive/ experimental take on the genre. Baltimore will have an answer for the future in Flat Stan. Do yourself a favor and scope his work.