How The MC Is Using The New York Sound to Grow His Place in The Industry
These last couple of weeks I’ve said Houston, Texas is the city where if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. We looked at some of the podcasts that are helping to grow our entertainment backbone so that our city can take its place amongst the big markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. While I want to emphasize the need for greater entertainment infrastructure in the city, I never want to take away from the artists that have made it work. There are industry powerhouses that come from right here. Beyoncé, Solange, Lizzo, Travis Scott, Megan Thee Stallion, Don Toliver, Yolanda Adams, and more have carved out their place on the national scene in their own respective forms of music.
And then there are the artists that have gained national attention but are still growing. They have created a place where their names garner attention but, even with the success that they have attained so far, we still haven’t witnessed how large they can become. One artist who represents this more than most is Albert Walker Mondale, better known as Sauce Walka.
In all honesty, I’m late to the whole Sauce Walka movement. I had knowledge of him when he was paired up alongside Sancho Saucy to form the duo the Sauce Twinz, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to their music. I knew about the beef with Drake, the run-ins with the law, the beef with Young Thug, and other antics but that allowed me to boil him down to just that – antics. For a period, it seemed like Sauce was known more for his character of Sauce Walka than the music itself. However, reducing Sauce Walka to pure antics and caricature is to miss out on one of the more compelling lyricists that Houston has produced in the last few decades. From a city that should be known for its lyricism, that is saying a lot.
In 2014 Sauce Walka started his label, The Sauce Factory (commonly referred to as TSF), continuing in the tradition of a lot of independent Houston artists. Since that time, he has maintained that independent streak, expanding the label’s roster, making TSF a fixture in urban culture, and working alongside artists like Maxo Kream, the Migos, XXXTentacion, the Griselda roster, A$ap Rocky, and others.
As someone that is prone to leaning more towards the style of New York rap, it was easy to miss music from Walka until about four years ago. In 2019 the closing track of Buffalo, New York rapper Westside Gunn’s Flygod Is An Awesome God featured the boisterous, confident flow from Walka. Over a distorted guitar riff, Sauce ended the song taking listeners through his view of his life in Houston. He painted a vivid picture of a sweltering city occupied by taco trucks, prostitutes, high-end cars, drugs, and designer clothes. Though the verse is dripping with excess, he and the track come to an abrupt conclusion as he speaks about a brother losing his life to the system. As his trademark catchphrase of “Oowee” echoed through the speakers, I went looking for more. That’s where I encountered my first problem. Sauce has a lot of music, carrying his TSF label, and putting out content at a record pace. For someone getting into his catalog, it can be overwhelming at first. Plus, a lot of music that he had wasn’t in the same vein or style as the Westside Gunn feature. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long with Sauce releasing New Sauce City, his 11th mixtape at the time, in August of 2019. The mixtape had the Houston MC rapping over New York production and was paired with visuals of Sauce moving through the metropolis’ five boroughs.
Walka has always had a lyrical edge, but it is something about his wordplay over the East Coast sound that just works. He is always boastful in his lyrics, but the lead single and title track of New Sauce City has the MC almost pensive, opening the track critiquing industry peers and ending with a critique of the industry. Since that release, he has announced the series continuation with the next iteration New Sauce City 2, while still updating his other series like Ghetto Gospel, releasing full albums, and continuing to put out music with other TSF artists.
The work is showing results. Sauce Walka might not be winning awards yet, but it is becoming almost a guarantee that he will be recognized by Jay-Z when he drops his yearly playlist. This year the Marcy MC included “Dangerous Daringer,” the Conway the Machine featured single from his most recent release. Walka’s verse went viral months earlier when the MC performed it for a From The Block performance at SXSW. The verse and accompanying video are just a preview of what Walka is capable of lyrically. The video for “I’m Him” was released in earlier January promising even more from New Sauce City 2. He continues to be a song stealer on other Griselda projects like Westside Gunn’s “Westheimer,” exposing Walka to a whole new audience. He’s been honing his storytelling abilities with his Ghetto Gospel series. He made an appearance in the cypher of the 2022 BET awards. He’s as performative as he’s always been but now there is more than just pure entertainment. Sauce looks like he ready to tell his own story.