LB199X Interview: New Album, Growing up in Maryland, Conscious Rap - Rolling Stone
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How Rapper LB199X Builds a Wide-Angle View of Black Life in America

29-year-old Maryland rapper discusses his latest project, and why he sees himself as an “honest” rapper

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Tyler Austin*

A native of Glenarden, Maryland, Terry Goodwin’s friends and family know him as either TJ or Lil Black, two names he takes after his biological father, who he describes as a “real one” and the type of dad that “any kid would want to have.” But since around 2014, more people have come to know him as LB199X, or LB1990s — the “X” standing in for an entire decade. The 29-year-old rapper was born in 1992, and has garnered comparisons to musicians like Kendrick Lamar and Joey BadA$$ for his deft perspective view on the world. In his music, LB199X constructs vivid and uncompromising vignettes of the Black experience, which is the reason some listeners have come to regard him as “a conscious rapper.” It’s a title LB199X doesn’t necessarily take on for himself. If anything, he says, he considers himself to be an “honest rapper.”

“I see myself as a real person, and when it comes to making music, the music that I make is intentional,” he says. “Black men are killing Black men, and that’s the image they want us to perpetuate, but nobody wants to continue that cycle.” He describes his latest project, Stigma, as a personal testimony of his experience as a Black man in America experiencing life and love. “I loved, I lust, I hugged, I rush and then some/Gave my all despite my flaws, my income,” he raps on his upcoming single, “What About Love.”

Growing up in Prince George’s County, one of the wealthiest Black communities in America, he explains, he’s been made aware of the pernicious nature of racism; the ways in which cultural stigmas remain ingrained in our culture. “I’m showing people that I’m defining these stigmas,” he says. “So if I have to speak to you in a manner of me being ‘gangsta’, then that’s me doing it. If I got to speak to you in a manner of showing love, that’s [also] me speaking to you.”

As a youth, LB199X was known to be active within his community. He played football and ran track as a teenager. By the time he started high school, LB199X decided that he wanted to pursue music and didn’t question the instinct. “I started recording myself in the ninth grade. I downloaded Mixcraft off of the internet and I just went crazy, learning how to record myself and learning what recording was,” he explains. “I was just putting myself in the mode of recording music. That’s all I wanted to do.” 

 

By the time he got to his senior year, LB199X had formed a rap group, Coast to Coast, alongside one of his friends and his cousin. They traveled to Virginia each weekend, spending any money they had on music and studio time, which eventually led to radio time. After graduation, LB199X enrolled at Full Sail University in Orlando, where he met Grayson Fisher, who has been a friend and producer ever since. 

His songs arrive like photos taken through a wide-angle lens, expanding the range of perception in pursuit of a fuller picture. The rapper’s first two projects, 2018’s Black Matter and 2019’s Color Us, outline a worldview dedicated to resisting cycles of oppression. With more than a million streams on Spotify, his song “To Live and Die in Amerikkka,” on Color Us, finds him rapping over a sultry guitar, laying bare the vulnerabilities that come with navigating a country that is in many ways still bound to deep-seated racist beliefs. “Man fuck a politician/We tryna make a living,” he raps. “But my upbringing different/Live by the code/We don’t do no snitching.”  

“There’s a purpose behind me speaking on uplifting the Black community,” LB199X says. “I take pride in that. If people want to call me conscious I’ll take that, but I know what type of person I am. I’m a leader, and I’m going to do my job because I have a purpose.” 

Color Us arrived just before the pandemic. And with Stigma, LB199X says, he’s digging further into his own life to uncover more of his true self. And while his rise could appear to be a dream come true, LB199X has faced the challenges of grief and loss that ring all too familiar in Black communities. It was just last year that he lost both his mother and stepfather to cancer. “I was in a dark place,” LB199X confesses. “It made me want to tap into my real self. I am a human being. I got vices, I have emotions. I do love and I do cry. I just want to show people why I think the way I think.”  

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