Each month, this roundup highlights a wide a selection of artists and sounds as possible.
Alt-rap mainstays like Rhymesayers and Doomtree, who have been championed for a decade-plus. are still worth paying attention to. (Brother Ali, for example, is recording some of the best music of his career.) But there are also emerging artists as stylistically distant from these veterans as can be, such as the rappers of the so-called “Minnesota drill” movement. And there’s a consistent level of talent between those two poles, too.
Below, find 10 eclectic new rap songs to come from the Twin Cities area in the past month.
Bobby Raps -- “Dysfunctional Machine”
Label: Republic Records
Bobby Raps’ name has never been more misleading than on his major label debut, Mark—though all its songs are tagged “rap” on SoundCloud, the music is hard to categorize. The dark, emotive, and experimental “Dysfunctional Machine” is no exception, with only one stretch of actual rapping. Bobby’s own favorite song from the album, it exemplifies his overall inventiveness, particularly when it comes to his vocals.
FreeWifi - “The Race”
Album: Unofficial remix
Seventeen-year-old Texas rapper Tay-K rocketed to fame in a matter of weeks thanks, in large part, to his controversial single “The Race,” recorded while he was on the run after being charged in connection to a July 2016 capital murder. Minneapolis’ J. Plaza and Daddy Dinero, two-thirds of the new Rostrum Records group FreeWifi, are among the MCs who have decided to take the beat for a spin, and their remix is a keeper, with Plaza delivering a hook that’s as catchy as Tay’s original chorus.
Greg Grease -- “Down So Long”
Album: Down So Long
Label: Sound Verite Records
Minneapolis rapper and ZuluZuluu member Greg Grease is readying his latest solo album, out August 11, and its title track is indicative of what’s special about the project. With the single’s cover art taken from Dorothea Lange’s collection of photos of black sharecroppers in the 1930s, Greg writes of his will to become successful, well aware of the difficulties that black people in America have historically had to struggle through. Read more about the song—and how it fits into the album as a whole—in City Pages’ recent interview with Greg here.
Lizea Harper -- “Siren”
On her new EP Dive, Minneapolis’ Lizea Harper moves fluidly and purposefully between singing and rapping, mixing pop and rap in a way that’s not “pop rap.” “Siren” makes sense as the EP’s closing song, leaving the listener with ideas to chew on about the necessity of change and remaining hopeful in today’s apocalyptic world. While Harper states that the song “ain’t political shit when I’m just speaking what I see,” it does function as a protest song in some ways, and a powerful one at that.
Knucky -- “Ours.”
721, the new project from Free Lunch Crew member Knucky, is one of July’s best new MN hip-hop releases. My favorite new song from the Bloomington MC, though, is one that doesn’t appear on 721. With its nonchalantly catchy hook and Rich Lee’s warm, woozy beat, Knucky could probably have delivered merely average verses and still earned a spot in this space. But this guy has bars for days, and “Ours.” highlights that as well as any song on 721: “Niggas in this field corny and I’m in the maze/ I’m just marching through the madness like a college game.”
Kristoff Krane -- “Head Stone”
Album: Kairos, Pt. 1
Kairos, Pt. 1, the new album from Minneapolis alt-rap veteran Kristoff Krane, starts out strong, then really hits its stride with the third track, “Head Stone.” It’s a dizzying distillation of Kristoff’s gift for penning verses seemingly excerpted from a short story, not to mention his sheer technical ability as a rapper.
Prince Cray -- “Codeine”
At this point in 2017, any rapper deploying an “aye” flow, as Minneapolis’ Prince Cray does during the chorus here, runs the risk of sounding woefully unoriginal. Here, though, a charged-up Cray avoids that potential problem by simply rapping his ass off, coming up with some memorable bars in the process: “They want a slice of the pie, use the same knife to stab me in the back.”
Shredders -- “Wolfs”
Album: Shredders EP
Label: Doomtree Records
Doomtree spinoff group Shredders (rappers P.O.S and Sims, producers Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger) jolted the Minneapolis rap scene last month with their self-titled debut EP. My favorite of the trio of songs is “Wolfs,” arriving with a massive, standalone horn loop, exploding with big drums, and Sims and P.O.S once more proving to be complementary forces. No word on when we can expect a full-length album from Shredders, but whenever it comes, it will be worth your attention.
Tarxan -- “02 Shit”
Album: Unofficial remix
St. Paul rapper Tarxan has a history of killing Chicago street-rap instrumentals, and he bodies the piano-tapping beat from Cdot Honcho’s new street hit “02 Shit.” In addition to his usual get-money bars, there are glimpses of Tarxan’s humor here: “Shoot him in his heart, that’s a titty shot/ Have his ass pattin’ his chest like the Milly Rock.”
Travis Gorman Ft. Devon Reason and Demon Marcus -- “Scene Kid 08’”
Album: Jump // Scene Kid 08’
“Scene Kid 08’” is a banger,with Travis Gorman’s creaky, off-kilter beat exhibiting why Gorman was the best choice for City Pages’ Best Hip-Hop Producer 2017. On the mic, Devon Reason delivers his signature firecracker energy, and he’s joined by the cleverly named Demon Marcus, who reminds me of no one so much as Death Grips’ MC Ride here. With the intensity of hardcore punk, the song might not be everyone’s cup of Henny, but if you’re down for something noisy and chaotic, look no further.
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