If you’re not a hip-hop fan of a certain age — or an Angeleno — then the name Suga Free may not ring a bell. Which is, to be clinical, a damn shame; the man is one of rap’s great unsung regional heroes. Thankfully, the Los Angeles Times saw fit to commission a full feature profile on Pomona’s finest, and Jeff Weiss does it justice, giving Suga his well-deserved flowers while not shying away from his music’s conflicting nature.

There is a YouTube video from around 1995 that goes viral just about every time someone posts it on social media. It’s alternately known as the Suga Free “Pen and Nickel” or “Kitchen Table” freestyle. Filmed with a handheld camera at a Compton dope house, Suga Free performs the rap equivalent of hitting a full court shot backward and following it up with a 720-degree slam dunk. Using a nickel as a kick drum, a pen as a hi-hat, Suga Free floats like he had never experienced gravity. He’s Gregory Hines in alligator shoes, Cab Calloway on a mission to make money with Minnie the Moocher. The voice pirouettes and crip walks, flows and bends like alien cadences from an advanced civilization where “Dolemite” is revered as sacred text. When Questlove posted the clip last month, the reactions were typical: thousands marveling at the level of difficulty, describing it as the pure essence of hip-hop creativity. Or as A$AP Ferg chimed in: “Unbelievable 🔥.”