The first time I saw Linafornia, she was mercilessly slaughtering her competition. Last November at the Beat Cinema Beat Battle, the Leimert Park producer artfully incinerated all those vying for the $300 grand prize. The other entrants had talent, but many imitated the Low End Theory vanguards a little too faithfully. Linafornia stood out immediately. It wasn’t that she was one of the few female beat-makers but that she possessed all those intangibles that make the difference: presence, poise, swag, swing.
Wearing a head wrap over her braids and a brightly colored, flowing dress, she manipulated her SP-404 sampler with a philharmonic conductor’s mastery, unspooling her life story through jazzy sample flips and snatches of stray dialogue. You could spot traces of her influences (Ras G, Madlib, Dibiase, FlyLo), but she’d sublimated them into her own style. I was a judge that night, alongside Daedelus and Astronautica (two legitimate scene stars in their own right), and Linafornia made our deliberations easy. She brought home the cash, as she had a few months prior at another Beat Cinema tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte – victorious in the only two she entered.
“I stopped doing the beat battles because I felt like I’d proven myself,” Linafornia tells me at an Echo Park coffee shop. “I didn’t want to be boxed into one thing and wanted to place the focus on my live show and albums.”
More specifically, she’s referring to Yung, her sterling, Erykah Baduâ€“approved debut, which came out in January on Dome of Doom. A few months earlier, Linafornia tweeted out “Rookie of the Year.” The boast lacked context, but its message was clear and accurate.